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United States v. Darden

filed*fn*: February 18, 1993.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JEFF WILLIAM DARDEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. D.C. No. CR-92-2-HJF. Helen J. Frye, District Judge, Presiding

Before: Goodwin, Schroeder and Canby, Circuit Judges.

MEMORANDUM

Jeff William Darden appeals his conviction, following the entry of a conditional guilty plea, for making a false statement to the government in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Darden argues that the district court erred by refusing to recuse the entire United States Attorney's office for the District of Oregon ("U.S. Attorney's office") because of an alleged conflict of interest. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.

We review for abuse of discretion the district court's refusal to recuse the U.S. Attorney's office. United States v. Gordon, 974 F.2d 1110, 1114 (9th Cir. 1992); United States v. Prantil, 764 F.2d 548, 552 (9th Cir. 1985).

The relevant facts are undisputed. Darden falsely stated that he received a baccalaureate degree from Portland State University in an application for federal employment with the U.S. Attorney's office. Prior to trial, Darden moved to disqualify the entire U.S. Attorney's office from prosecuting the case. The district court denied the motion and Darden entered a conditional guilty plea to the instant offense.

Darden contends that the district court erred by denying his motion to recuse the entire U.S. Attorney's office because the U.S. Attorney's office, as the "victim" of the instant offense, had a disqualifying emotional interest in the outcome of the case.

It is established that "prosecutors may not necessarily be held to as stringent a standard of disinterest as Judges." See Young v. U.S. ex rel. Vuitton et Fils, S.A., 481 U.S. 787, 807 (1987). Accordingly, if the U.S. Attorney's office meets the standard of judicial disinterest, then it necessarily meets the less stringent standard of prosecutorial disinterest. The test for judicial disqualification is "whether a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the Judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." United States v. Payne, 944 F.2d 1458, 1476 (9th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S. Ct. 1598 (1992); see also 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).

Here, the record is devoid of any facts showing that any member of the U.S. Attorney's office had any emotional interest in the outcome of the case. Darden's unfounded allegations regarding a conflict of interest are insufficient grounds for disqualification. See United States v. Rewald, 889 F.2d 836, 860 (prosecutor's prior affiliation with the Central Intelligence Agency in a prosecution in which the defendant claimed that the CIA instructed him to spend investors' funds was not grounds for disqualification where the only evidence of a conflict of interest was based upon "unfounded gossip and speculation" fueled in part by the defendant), cert. denied, 111 S. Ct. 64 (1990); see also United States v. Heldt, 668 F.2d 1238, 1275 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (explaining that the "victim" of an illegal entry of a United States Attorney's office was the United States of America rather than the United States Attorney's office), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 926 (1982). Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Darden's recusal motion. See Gordon, 974 F.2d at 1114; Rewald, 889 F.2d at 860.

AFFIRMED.

Disposition

AFFIRME ...


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