United States District Court, D. Colorado
CHRIS SEVIER, JOAN GRACE HARLEY, JOHN GUNTER, JR., and WHITNEY KOHL, Plaintiffs,
JOHN HICKENLOOPER, in his Official Capacity as Governor of Colorado, CYNTHIA COFFMAN, in her Official Capacity as Attorney General, MATT CRANE, in his Capacity as Supervisor Marriage License and County Rec of Arapahoe County, STACY WORTHINGTON, in her Capacity as Assistant Attorney General in Colorado, and AUBREY ELENIS, Director of the Colorado Rights Division, Defendants. JOAN GRACE HARLEY, CHRIS SEVIER, JOHN GUNTER, JR., and WHITNEY KOHL, Plaintiffs,
MASTERPIECE CAKE SHOP LTD. and JACK PHILLIPS, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO RECUSE
WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are the “Motion to Recuse the
Magistrate and Motion to Reassign” filed by Plaintiff
Sevier (“Sevier”) in Case No. 17-cv-1750-WJM-NYW
(ECF No. 94) and the “Motion to Recuse the
Magistrate” filed by Sevier in Case No.
17-cv-1666-WJM-NYW (ECF No. 90) (together, the
“Motions”). The Motions are substantially
identical, were filed at the same time, and both seek the
recusal or disqualification of U.S. Magistrate Judge Nina Y.
Wang and the undersigned under 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). The
two Motions are properly resolved together and both are
both Motions could be stricken for violation of the
Court's Order on Pending Filings and Case Procedures,
which ordered Sevier and other Plaintiffs to
“immediately desist from
any further ad hominem attacks, insults or
threats against any judicial officer of this Court in their
filings.” These Orders were entered on September 29,
2017. Less than two weeks later, Sevier filed the present
Motions, which consist of almost nothing but groundless and
repetitive ad hominem attacks. Sevier's
Motions manifestly reflect a willful violation of the
Court's Order, and also violate D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(i),
and are therefore subject to being stricken and sanctioned.
to avoid expending further resources on re-filed motions, the
Court will briefly address Sevier's Motions on their
merits-or rather, the lack thereof. After sifting through
Sevier's 30 full pages of repetitive accusations-and
overlooking his comical abuse of lengthy and tangential
footnotes violative of both the Court's page limitations
and its prohibition against “verbose, redundant,
ungrammatical, or unintelligible” motions,
D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(i)-Sevier's arguments are reducible to
two objections, both meritless.
overarching argument attacks case management actions taken by
the Court with which he disagrees, claiming they reflect bias
or misconduct. Without belaboring the issue, there has been
no error in Judge Wang's handling of these cases, much
less anything that supports Sevier's accusations of bias
and misconduct. The Court has already rejected Sevier's
oft-repeated objection to Judge Wang's Order striking
Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment, and there was
no error in this action. (ECF No. 80 at 4-6.) Sevier's
other complaint is that Judge Wang somehow erred when she
entered an Order to Show Cause cautioning Plaintiffs Kohl and
Harley that failure to appear as ordered at a status
conference could lead to dismissal without prejudice for
failure to prosecute. (ECF No. 72.) This was entirely proper
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) and
D.C.COLO.LCivR 41.1. Clearly, Sevier believes in the
rectitude of his own view that he should be permitted to act
on behalf of the other pro se Plaintiffs in this
action. But, just as clearly, since it is undisputed that
Sevier is not legally permitted to practice law, Sevier's
view is wrong. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1654;
Flymbo v. State Farm Fire & Cas., Co., 213 F.3d
1320, 1321 (10th Cir. 2000) (“A litigant may bring his
own claims to federal court without counsel, but not the
claims of others.”); Silvious v. Coca-Cola
Co., 893 F.Supp.2d 233, 236 (D.D.C. 2012) (“it is
long established that a pro se litigant generally
cannot represent the interests of other individuals, and the
federal courts have consistently rejected attempts at
third-party lay representation” (gathering sources)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted));
D.C.COLO.LAttyR 3(c) (“An attorney who is not in good
standing shall not practice before the bar of this
court.”); cf. Luis v. United States, 136 S.Ct.
1083, 1089 (2016) (“A [criminal] defendant has no right
. . . to an attorney who is not a member of the bar.”).
event, even if Sevier could point to some error or undue
harshness in the Court's rulings (which he cannot), this
provides no basis for disqualification. It is
well-established that “[a]dverse rulings alone are
insufficient grounds for disqualification, as is evidence
that the judge criticized or was angry with a party.”
In re Am. Ready Mix, Inc., 14 F.3d 1497, 1501 (10th
Cir. 1994) (“Ready Mix”).
other argument for disqualification is his claim that both
Judge Wang and the undersigned are biased against the
Plaintiffs, due in large part to a perceived alignment with
the American Civil Liberties Union. Notwithstanding the fact
that the ACLU is neither a party nor involved in these cases
in any way, Sevier still seems to view it as a lurking
bogeyman, the mere mention of which should, in his view,
result in per se judicial disqualification.
to say, Sevier's argument is unsupported even by any
factual allegation that either the undersigned or
Judge Wang have any present or improper affiliation with the
ACLU. The very general comments attributed to Judge Wang in a
bar magazine interview nowhere mention the ACLU and have
nothing to do with any party, lawyer, or legal issue in these
actions. Likewise, Sevier's reliance on reporting in
The Atlantic Monthly from the time of the
undersigned's Senate confirmation in 2011, at the most
reflects Sevier's own social and political views (and
perhaps those of then-Senator Sessions), but neither reflects
“new evidence, ” as Sevier claims, nor purports
to reflect any statement or view of the undersigned.
(See ECF No. 94 at 9-11, 15-16.) Sevier's claims
raise, if anything at all, “the merest unsubstantiated
suggestion of personal bias or prejudice, ” making
recusal inappropriate. United States v. Wells, 873
F.3d 1241, 1251 (10th Cir. 2017).
argument is also unsupported by any legal authority. The
relevant inquiry under § 455(a) is “whether a
reasonable factual basis exists for questioning the
judge's impartiality.” Wells, 873 F.3d at
1251. Even if Sevier's argument had raised any factual
basis, no authority suggests an attenuated or past connection
to a non-party organization requires recusal in cases where
issues arise on which the organization takes positions.
See Wells, 873 F.3d at 1253 (finding “no case
. . . even suggesting that recusal is required” where
judge who presided over criminal trial was personal friends
with lawyer for an advocacy organization that opposed the
protest activity for which defendant was convicted);
Armenian Assembly of Am., Inc. v. Cafesjian, 783
F.Supp.2d 78, 91 (D.D.C. 2011) (“a judge's past
membership in organizations that advocate for positions
advanced by a party does not necessarily require
recusal” (collecting cases)), aff'd, 758
F.3d 265 (D.C. Cir. 2014); cf. Perry v.
Schwarzennegger, 630 F.3d 909 (9th Cir. 2011)
(Reinhardt, J.) (recusal not required in challenge to state
ballot measure related to same-sex marriage on grounds that
judge's wife was executive director of the ACLU of
Southern California; “the organization . . . not having
participated in any filings before this court, has no more to
gain from the outcome . . . than any other person or entity
with strong views on the subject but not directly involved
with the litigation”).
Sevier's Motions were filed months after these actions
were initiated, and after Plaintiffs had made numerous prior
substantive filings, but almost immediately after the
Court's Orders on Pending Filings and Case Procedures.
(See ECF Nos. 80, 94.) This confirms that
Sevier's claims have nothing to do with any good-faith
claim of bias, and everything to do with Sevier's
displeasure with the Court's rulings. This defeats
Sevier's argument for disqualification. Ready
Mix, 14 F.3d at 1501; Perry, 630 F.3d at 916
(“each judge must be alert to avoid the possibility
that those who would question his impartiality are in fact
seeking to avoid the consequences of his expected adverse
decision” (quoting legislative history of § 455)).
Moreover, Sevier's present Motions confirm
Plaintiffs' own frequent representations to the
Court-often conveyed as threats-showing that Plaintiffs are
engaged in blatant judge-shopping. This even further calls for
Sevier's Motions to be rejected. See Nichols v.
Alley, 71 F.3d 347, 351 (10th Cir. 1995) (§ 455(a)
is not “intended to bestow veto power over judges or to
be used as a judge shopping device. . . . a judge has as
strong a duty to sit when there is no legitimate reason to
recuse as he does to recuse when the law and facts
reasons set forth above, Sevier's “Motion to Recuse
the Magistrate and Motion to Reassign” filed in Case
No. 17-cv-1750-WJM-NYW (ECF No. 94), and his “Motion to
Recuse the Magistrate” filed in Case No.
17-cv-1666-WJM-NYW (ECF No. 90) are both DENIED.
 Unless noted otherwise, the
Court's citations herein are to docket entries
(“ECF No.”) in Case No. 17-cv-1750-WJM-NYW (ECF
No. 94). The relevant filings in Case No. 17-cv-1666-WJM-NYW
are largely parallel, and the Court's ...