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Edelman v. Page

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 16, 2018

STEVEN EDELMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID PAGE, et al., Defendants

          ORDER DENYING POST-JUDGMENT MOTION FOR RELIEF

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff has filed a pro se post-judgment motion for relief on grounds that I should have recused myself as the judge in his case. The alleged basis for my recusal is that plaintiff's father was my grade school teacher in New York about 40 years ago, that plaintiff's father knows my father, and that plaintiff himself met with me almost 20 years ago and discussed facts relating to his case. I will deny plaintiff's motion for relief for substantially the reasons well-stated in defendant Donald Schultz's opposition memorandum (Doc. #372) and also for the further reasons stated in this order.

         Background

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against 30 defendants in June 2000. See Edelman v. Page, 2015 WL 1395893, at *1 (D. Conn. 2015) (describing factual background of this case), aff'd, 683 Fed.Appx. 60 (2017), cert. denied, 138 S.Ct. 251 (2017). The complaint alleged that plaintiff's rights were violated by numerous government officials in connection with his arrest over a dispute about whether he needed a permit to replace shingles on his house in Windham, Connecticut. Ibid.

         With many procedural twists and turns, the case persisted on the federal court docket for more than a decade until it was finally transferred to my docket in April 2014. Doc. #284. That was a few weeks after I began my service as a federal judge, and the transfer was in accordance with a random assignment to me by the Clerk's Office of large numbers of cases from other judges' dockets.

         By the time this case arrived on my docket, there were only two of the original 30 defendants remaining: defendant Donald Schultz (the town's building official) and David Page (a deputy sheriff). I proceeded to rule on numerous motions, both procedural and substantive. On August 8, 2014, I denied plaintiff's motion to file an amended complaint against defendants Schultz and Page. Doc. #320. I ruled that “[t]he motion is manifestly untimely and plainly fails to establish ‘good cause' for its filing fourteen years into this case, more than two-and-a-half years after present counsel filed his appearance, after the close of discovery, and on the eve of argument of the summary judgment motions.” Ibid.

         On March 22, 2015, I granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment; I dismissed plaintiff's sole remaining claim against Schultz, and I dismissed all but one of plaintiff's remaining claims against Page. Doc. #322 (Edelman v. Page, 2015 WL 1395893 (D. Conn. 2015)). On November 30, 2015, I denied plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of my summary judgment ruling. Doc. #333.[1]

         I thereafter set the case down for trial in May 2016 and referred the parties to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan Margolis for a settlement conference. Docs. #349 and #350. In March 2016, I was surprised to learn from Judge Margolis that plaintiff had told her during the course of a settlement conference that he had a personal connection to me.[2] When Judge Margolis called to advise me of this, I promptly entered the following order on March 24, 2016, to require plaintiff to describe any reasons he may possibly have for my recusal:

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE ANY BASIS FOR RECUSAL. If any party has any basis to believe that Judge Meyer has any prior knowledge of or direct or indirect connection to the parties or the facts of this litigation or that Judge Meyer should otherwise consider for any reason whether to recuse himself from this case, such party shall file by Friday, April 1, 2016, a statement or memorandum stating in detail such factual basis for consideration.

Doc. #355.

         Plaintiff failed to file a response to this order to show cause. The docket reflects that on March 31, 2016, plaintiff's counsel filed two motions to seal any response to the order to show cause, but the docket does not reflect the filing of any actual response to the order to show cause. See Docs. #356, #357. Rather than file a response to the order to show cause, plaintiff elected to enter into a settlement with the sole remaining defendant (Page), and the case was dismissed on April 8, 2016, with judgment soon entering on April 18, 2016. Docs. #362, #363.

         Plaintiff hired new counsel to pursue an appeal. Plaintiff had previously filed premature notices of appeal on December 28, 2015, and January 19, 2016, and the appeal was stayed on plaintiff's motion in the court of appeals and not activated until after final judgment entered on April 8, 2016. Doc. #342.

         Plaintiff's appeal attacked the merits of my summary judgment ruling as well as a prior ruling in the case in 2011 by Judge Squatrito. Plaintiff's appeal did not argue that I should have recused myself. Nor did plaintiff seek to stay adjudication of his appeal so that he might pursue a motion to recuse me and for post-judgment relief.

         The Second Circuit rejected all of plaintiff's arguments on appeal. See683 Fed.Appx. 60 (2d Cir. 2017). As to my summary judgment ruling that dismissed plaintiff's claim against Schultz, the Second Circuit ruled in relevant part that “we find no error in the District Court's careful analysis, on summary judgment, of Edelman's equal protection claim, ” and “[w]e agree with the District Court that these undisputed facts (and Edelman does not dispute them on appeal), combined with the lack of any evidence ...


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