United States District Court, D. Connecticut
L. LEE WHITNUM Plaintiff,
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.
C. Hall United States District Judge.
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). 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.
reasons stated below, Whitnum's Motions are denied.
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.
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).
Motion to Disqualify
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.”
party to a proceeding files a sufficient affidavit, as
provided for in section 144 of title 28 of the United States
Code,  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)).
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