Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Whitnum v. Town of Woodbridge

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 11, 2019

L. LEE WHITNUM Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF WOODBRIDGE, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO TRANSFER (DOC. NO. 125), FURTHER MOTION TO TRANSFER (DOC. 141), FURTHER MOTION TO TRANSFER (DOC. NO. 142), AFFIDAVIT AND MEMORANDUM OF LAW (DOC. NO. 177), AND SECOND MOTION TO DISQUALIFY (DOC. NO. 210)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, L. Lee Whitnum (“Whitnum”), filed numerous Motions to Transfer and to Disqualify the undersigned. See Motion to Transfer (Doc. No. 125), Further Motion to Transfer (Doc. No. 141), Further Motion to Transfer (Doc. No. 142), Affidavit and Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 177), and Motion for Extension of Time, Transfer of Venue, and Disqualification (“Second Mot. Disqualify”) (Doc. No. 210).[1] The defendants filed an Objection on December 21, 2018. See Objection (Doc. No. 144). Until recently, there were as many as eight interlocutory appeals pending at the Second Circuit. Whitnum v. Woodbridge, No. 19-1408, (2d Cir., filed May 10, 2019). Those appeals having been dismissed, the court now addresses plaintiff's numerous motions seeking transfer of her case or recusal of the undersigned.

         For the reasons stated below, Whitnum's Motions are denied.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Whitnum commenced this action on August 11, 2017. See Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1). She named as defendants the Town of Woodbridge, Officer Robert B. Crowther, and Officer Frank P. Cappiello. Id. In her Complaint, she alleged that her fourth amendment right to be free from arrest without probable cause was violated when Crowther and Cappiello obtained an arrest warrant, pursuant to which she was arrested. Whitnum claims negligence, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and negligent infliction of emotional distress against all three defendants.

         The case was initially assigned to District Judge Stefan Underhill. On August 18, 2017, Judge Underhill transferred the case, whereupon it was reassigned to District Judge Michael P. Shea. See Order of Transfer (Doc. No. 11). The case was transferred to District Judge Kari A. Dooley, upon her swearing in, as part of a random reassignment of cases to a new district judge. See Order of Transfer (Doc. No. 81). Subsequently, Judge Dooley transferred the case, at which point it was randomly reassigned to the undersigned. See Order of Transfer (Doc. No. 119).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Disqualify

         Two federal statutes govern disqualification of a judge. Section 455 of title 28 of the United States Code requires that a judge disqualify herself where, inter alia, a judge's impartiality “might reasonably be questioned, ” or where a judge has a “personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), (b)(1). By its own terms, section 455 does not provide relief to a party seeking to cause a court to disqualify itself from a case; rather, it acts as a self-governing directive for the district court. 28 U.S.C. § 455(a)-(b) (“Any . . . judge . . . of the United States shall disqualify himself . . . . He shall also disqualify himself . . . .” (emphasis added)). However, a party may seek relief on proper motion under section 144 of title 28 of the United States Code. That section provides, in pertinent part:

Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice against either him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 144. The statute requires that the movant's affidavit “state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists.” Id.

         Where a party to a proceeding files a sufficient affidavit, as provided for in section 144 of title 28 of the United States Code, [2] another judge must be assigned to hear the proceeding. Id. However, the “mere filing of an affidavit of prejudice does not require a judge to recuse himself. . . . [Rather, a] judge has an affirmative duty to inquire into the legal sufficiency of such an affidavit and not to disqualify himself unnecessarily, ” especially where “the request for disqualification was not made at the threshold of the litigation and the judge has acquired a valuable background of experience.” Nat'l Auto Brokers Corp. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 572 F.2d 953, 958 (2d Cir. 1978) (quoting Rosen v. Sugarman, 357 F.2d 794, 797-98 (2d Cir. 1966)).

         The Second Circuit has instructed that sections 455 and 144 are to be read together, and that both are generally governed by the same standards. Apple v. Jewish Hosp. and Med. Ctr., 829 F.2d 326, 333 (2d Cir. 1987). The ultimate inquiry for recusal is “whether a reasonable person, knowing all the facts, would conclude that the court's impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Id.

         B. Motio ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.