United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MARTA D. LYALL, Plaintiff,
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCATION, et al., Defendants.
ORDER ON REVIEW OF REFUSAL TO RECUSE
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
recuse U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones. Dkt. #43. Upon
review of the motion, Judge Jones declined to recuse himself.
Dkt. #44. In accordance with the Local Rules of this
District, Plaintiff's motion was referred to the
Undersigned for a review of Judge Jones's refusal to
recuse. LCR 3(e).
bases her motion to recuse, generally, on two grounds. The
first is a series of adverse rulings that Judge Jones has
issued in her case (see Dkt. #43 at 3); the second
is various aspects of Judge Jones' alleged background
prior to assuming his duties as a federal judge (see
Id. at 3-4).
to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), a judge of the United States
shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his
impartiality “might reasonably be questioned.”
Federal judges also shall disqualify themselves in
circumstances where they have a personal bias or prejudice
concerning a party or personal knowledge of disputed
evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding. 28 U.S.C. §
both 28 U.S.C. §144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455, recusal of
a federal judge is appropriate if “a reasonable person
with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the
judge's impartiality might reasonably be
questioned.” Yagman v. Republic Insurance, 987
F.2d 622, 626 (9th Cir.1993). This is an objective inquiry
concerned with whether there is the appearance of bias, not
whether there is bias in fact. Preston v. United
States, 923 F.2d 731, 734 (9th Cir.1992);
United States v. Conforte, 624 F.2d 869,
881 (9th Cir.1980). In Liteky v. United States, 510
U.S. 540 (1994), the United States Supreme Court further
explained the narrow basis for recusal:
[J]udicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid
basis for a bias or partiality motion. . . . [O]pinions
formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or
events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or
of prior proceedings, do not constitute a basis for a bias or
partiality motion unless they display a deep seated
favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment
impossible. Thus, judicial remarks during the course of a
trial that are critical or disapproving of, or even hostile
to, counsel, the parties, or their cases, ordinarily do not
support a bias or partiality challenge.
Id. at 555.
fact that Judge Jones has issued rulings unfavorable to
Plaintiff's position is not grounds for recusal. If
Plaintiff believes that Judge Jones has ruled in error, she
is entitled (at the appropriate time) to challenge those
rulings on appeal. Her belief that Judge Jones should not
have ruled against her is insufficient to form the basis of a
valid request for recusal.
Plaintiff cites several facts about Judge Jones'
background as evidence of bias or impartiality: (1) he is an
alumnus of the University of Washington (a defendant in her
lawsuit) Law School; (2) he worked for the King County
Prosecutor's Office from 1974-1978; and (3) he worked (at
an unspecified time) for the law firm of Bogle and Gates.
Dkt. #43 at 3-4.
allegation regarding the University of Washington is
unadorned; i.e., Plaintiff cites no other fact
implying a connection or possible bias than that the
presiding judge attended the institution (more than 40 years
ago, since he was employed as a lawyer at least by 1974 by
Plaintiff's account). This is an unremarkable fact which
does not give rise to even an appearance of bias or
next allegation concerns Judge Jones' employment in the
King County Prosecutor's Office from 1974 - 1978. She
notes that “[t]his is a period when the subject of the
Plaintiff's film, Carl L. Harp, a national figure, had
just been wrongly convicted, and given four life sentences,
and his appeals were active.” Dkt. #43 at 3-4. Setting
aside the unsupported conclusory opinion regarding Mr.
Harp's “wrongful conviction, ” Plaintiff
produces no evidence that Judge Jones was in any way
connected to that prosecution. Her only remaining allegations
on this topic concern a former U.S. Marshal, Mark Ericks, and
are so tangential to Judge Jones and her current lawsuit as
to be meaningless. Her final observation (“It is
unknown if Judge Jones is communicating with Mr. Ericks or
his supporters”) sums up the irrelevant, speculative
nature of her assertions.
Plaintiff points to Judge Jones' prior employment with
the Bogle and Gates law firm. She makes a series of
unsupported allegations about the firm (“largest
Defendants (sic) firm in Seattle, ”
“extremely conservative and pro-business and
banks”) and draws the conclusion that “[a]nyone
from the firm would be biased towards a case where large
banks are being challenged.” Id. Even setting
aside the complete lack of proof of her assertions about the
firm (which, the Court takes judicial notice, was dissolved
in 1999), her sweeping generalized opinion that
“anyone” who had worked at the firm would be
biased against her is unpersuasive and (again) uncorroborated
by any facts from her case.
almost never established simply because the judge issued
adverse rulings against a party. In order to establish bias
on the part of the presiding judge, Plaintiff would have to
show that facts outside the record influenced Judge
Jones' decisions or that the judge's rulings were so
irrational that they must be the result of prejudice.
Plaintiff does not allege any facts on the record which tend
to demonstrate that events outside the record improperly
influenced the decisions in this matter. Outside of her
general, conclusory accusations, Plaintiff cites to no
specific rulings that are either outlandish or irrational or
in any way give rise to an inference of bias.
Court finds no evidence upon which to reasonably question
Judge Jones's impartiality and AFFIRMS his denial of