United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
R. Underhill United States District Judge.
Riddick (“Riddick”), also known as Ja-Qure
Al-Bukhari, a Connecticut Department of Correction inmate,
brought this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915 against the Department of Correction and nineteen
individuals employed by the Department of Correction. On
November 19, 2013, I dismissed the claims for money damages
against all defendants in their official capacities pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2). I also dismissed, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), all claims against the State
of Connecticut Department of Correction, Commissioner Arnone,
Administrator Furey, and Dr. Frayne, and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim against Warden
Maldonaldo regarding Administrative Directive 9.5(10).
See Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 10 at 7. I
concluded that the Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement
claims could proceed against defendants Maldonaldo, Weber,
Caputo, Prouty, St. John, Pafumi, Brigthaupt, Powers,
Santiago, Jane Doe, John Doe, John Doe 2, John Doe 3, John
Doe 4 and John Doe 5 in their individual and official
capacities and the ADA claims could proceed against
defendants Weber, Caputo, Prouty, St. John, Pafumi, Jane Doe,
John Doe, John Doe 2, John Doe 3, John Doe 4 and John Doe 5
in their official capacities. See id.
January 31, 2014, Attorney Thomas O. Farrish appeared for
Riddick as pro bono counsel for settlement purposes only. On
March 11, 2014, the parties reported to the court that they
had reached an agreement to settle this case as well as
several other cases filed by Riddick. The Clerk terminated
this case pursuant to the notice of settlement. Doc. No. 26.
April 26, 2015, Attorney Farrish filed a motion to reopen the
action and enforce the settlement agreement. Doc. No. 27. On
April 28, 2015, Attorney Benjamin Henry Nassim appeared for
Riddick as pro bono counsel, and on May 13, 2015, Attorney
Jeffrey Mueller appeared for Riddick as pro bono counsel.
Doc. Nos. 32, 45. On May 14, 2015, Attorneys Farrish and
Mueller, on behalf of Riddick, and Attorney Terrence
O'Neill, on behalf of the defendants, appeared in this
court for a hearing and reached an agreement regarding the
issues raised by Riddick in the Motion to Reopen and to
Enforce the Settlement Agreement. See Transcript of
Hearing, Doc. No. 50. At the hearing, I clarified the terms
of the agreement on the record. See id. Pursuant to
the agreement of the parties and the clarification of terms
of the 2014 settlement agreement, Riddick withdrew his
motions to reopen the case and to enforce the settlement
agreement. See Minute Entry, Doc. No. 49.
August 20, 2015, I granted the motions to withdraw as pro
bono counsel for Riddick that had been filed by Attorneys
Farrish, Nissim, and Mueller. See Order, Doc. No.
56. On June 19, 2015, Riddick, acting pro se, filed a motion
to reopen the case and enforce the settlement agreement. Doc.
No. 51. At a hearing held on August 25, 2015, I denied the
motion without prejudice to filing a new case seeking
enforcement of the settlement agreement. See Minute
Entry and Order, Doc. No. 58.
2016, Riddick filed three new motions to reopen and enforce
the settlement agreement. See Doc. Nos. 59, 60, 61.
On July 28, 2016, Attorney John F. Conway appeared on behalf
of Riddick. Doc. No. 62. On October 27, 2016, I denied the
three motions to reopen without prejudice, pursuant to an
agreement by the parties to pursue good faith settlement
efforts. See Order, Doc. No. 63.
September 14, 2017, December 4, 2017 and December 6, 2017,
Riddick filed additional motions to reopen the case and
enforce the settlement agreement. See Motions, Doc.
Nos. 64, 66, 67. On December 13, 2017, Riddick filed a notice
of appeal of my October 27, 2016 order denying his motions to
reopen and to enforce the settlement agreement. See
Notice, Doc. No. 68. The case remained on appeal until April
30, 2018. On that date, the United States Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit issued a Mandate dismissing the appeal
for lack of jurisdiction due its untimely filing.
See USCA Mandate, Doc. No. 74. The case remains
before the court are Riddick's three motions to reopen
the case and to enforce the settlement agreement (Doc. Nos.
64, 66, 67); a motion to return to court to resolve his
concerns regarding the defendants' compliance with the
terms of the 2014 and 2015 Agreements (Doc. No. 76); a motion
to compel (Doc. No. 70); and a motion to disqualify me for
personal bias or prejudice (Doc. No. 73). In addition.
Attorney Conway has moved to withdraw as pro bono counsel for
Riddick (Doc. No. 75), to which Riddick has objected (Doc.
Motion to Disqualify Judge (Doc. No. 73)
claims that I am biased or prejudiced against him in favor of
the defendants because I did not immediately schedule a
hearing on his most recently filed motions to reopen the case
and enforce the settlement agreement and have not yet ruled
on those motions. Riddick claims that at the hearing held on
May 15, 2015, during which the terms of the 2014 settlement
agreement were clarified, I indicated that the parties could
come back to court to resolve any future issues with the
terms of the 2014 agreement or the order clarifying the terms
of the settlement agreement. Riddick seeks to disqualify me
or have me recuse myself from the case.
must recuse himself “in any proceeding in which his
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 455(a). Additionally, a judge “shall also
disqualify himself ... [w]here he has a personal bias or
prejudice concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. §
455(b)(1). The test employed to determine whether recusal is
required is an objective one and is “based on what a
reasonable person knowing all the facts would
conclude.” Chase Manhattan Bank v. Affiliated FM
Ins. Co., 343 F.3d 120, 127 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation
omitted), cert. dismissed, 541 U.S. 913 (2004). The
court, therefore, must consider “whether an objective
and disinterested observer, knowing and understanding all of
the facts and circumstances, could reasonably question the
court's impartiality.” S.E.C. v.
Razmilovic, 738 F.3d 14, 29 (2d Cir. 2013). A judge has
an affirmative duty not to disqualify himself unnecessarily.
See LoCascio v. United States, 473 F.3d 493, 498 (2d
Cir. 2007); National Auto Brokers Corp. v. General Motors
Corp., 572 F.2d 953, 958 (2d Cir. 1978).
must recuse himself if circumstances exist that would cause
an objectively reasonable observer to question the
judge's impartiality, i.e., if circumstances show
“a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make
fair judgment almost impossible.” Liteky v. United
States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994). “[J]udicial
rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a
bias or partiality motion” and “can only in the
rarest circumstances evidence the degree of favoritism or
antagonism required.” Id.
seeks recusal because he claims that I have not held a timely
hearing or ruled on his motions to reopen the case and to
enforce the terms of the settlement agreement in a timely
manner. As indicated above, Riddick filed his most recent
motions to reopen the case and to enforce the terms of the
2014 settlement agreement and the 2015 clarification of the
terms of the 2014 settlement agreement in September 2017 and
December 2017, just prior to filing a notice of appeal in the
action on December 13, 2017. The notice of appeal divested
the court of jurisdiction over the pending motions to reopen
and to enforce the settlement agreement.
general matter, “[t]he filing of a notice of appeal is
an event of jurisdictional significance-it confers
jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district
court of its control over those aspects of the case involved
in the appeal.” Griggs v. Provident Consumer
Discount Co.,459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982). “A district
court does not regain jurisdiction until the issuance of the
mandate by the ...