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O'Connor v. Lafayette City Council

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 21, 2019



          Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Disqualify Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix Pursuant to 28 § 455 U.S.C. [sic] [#42][1] (the “Motion”). Defendants filed a Response [#45] in opposition to the Motion [#42], and Plaintiffs filed a Reply [#46]. I have reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, and the entire case file and am fully advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#42] is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455, Plaintiffs seek my recusal on the basis of “misandry, lack of impartiality, personal bias and prejudice against Plaintiffs and in favor of Defendants and for violations of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.”[2] Motion [#42] at 1.[3]

         The only specific action taken by me to which Plaintiffs point is a Minute Order [#37] entered on October 21, 2019, in which I stated:

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Sanctions and Response in Opposition to Defendants' Reply in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss [ECF 14] Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [#28] (the “Motion”). Plaintiffs appear to be under the impression that they have a right to present their case in whatever manner they choose. However, no litigant, represented or pro se, has such a right. Wojdacz v. Norman, No. 12-cv-01483-REB-MEH, 2014 WL 4980401, at *1 n.3 (D. Colo. Oct. 6, 2014). Every litigant must conform his presentation of his case to the various rules and procedures governing proceedings before the Court. Id. The Court retains authority to manage the proceedings to promote the swift and efficient resolution of cases and preserve the dignity of the Court. Id. “[A] federal courtroom is not a bully pulpit.” Id.
Throughout their Motion [#28], Plaintiffs make a variety of vile characterizations and wholly baseless insinuations against various persons, including nonparties and counsel for Defendants-statements which do not deserve the dignity of being repeated here. See, e.g., [#28] at 12, 18, 20. Such unsubstantiated and “wholly fanciful aspersions” are plainly abusive. See Wojdacz, 2014 WL 4980401, at *1 n.3. Although the Court does not attempt to dignify Plaintiffs' wild conjecture by addressing each statement substantively-because each statement is, in fact, completely unsubstantiated-the Court warns Plaintiffs that filings that contain abusive material will be stricken without further consideration. See Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 841 (10th Cir. 2005) (stating that the Court has inherent authority to strike pleadings from the docket which contain abusive or offensive language and serve no legitimate purpose); Phillips v. Carey, 638 F.2d 207, 208 (10th Cir. 1981) (stating that the Court has the legal authority pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) to strike pleadings which are impertinent or scandalous in nature). Plaintiffs must limit the contents of their filings to information and argument which is intended to lead to the ultimate resolution of their claims before the Court. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion [#28] is STRICKEN.

         The remainder of Plaintiffs' suggested grounds for recusal are unconnected to any of my own actions in this case: (1) Plaintiffs' filing of a judicial misconduct complaint against me; (2) my practice as an employment lawyer prior to taking the bench; and (3) a 2016 award for judicial excellence presented to me by the Colorado Women's Bar Association. Motion [#42]; Reply [#46].

         II. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), a Magistrate Judge shall disqualify herself “in any proceeding in which [her] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Further, she “shall also disqualify [her]self . . . [w]here [s]he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1). In the Tenth Circuit, courts use a “reasonable person” standard in applying the statute. See, e.g., Hinman v. Rogers, 831 F.2d 937, 939 (10th Cir. 1987); see also United States v. Cooley, 1 F.3d 985, 993 (10th Cir. 1993) (“The standard is purely objective. The inquiry is limited to outward manifestations and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. In applying the test, the initial inquiry is whether a reasonable factual basis exists to call the judge's impartiality into question.”).

         The purpose of the statute is not to provide litigants with “a veto power over sitting judges, or a vehicle for obtaining a judge of their choice.” Cooley, 1 F.3d at 993. Moreover, “a judge has a strong duty to sit when there is no legitimate reason to recuse.” Bryce v. Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Colo., 289 F.3d 648, 659 (10th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). “‘[U]nsubstantiated suggestions, speculations [and] opinions[]' are insufficient to establish even the appearance of any bias, prejudice, or misconduct that would warrant judicial recusal.” Carpenter v. Boeing Co., 456 F.3d 1183, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted); see also Estate of Bishop v. Equinox Int'l Corp., 256 F.3d 1050, 1058 (10th Cir. 2001) (“Factors that do not merit disqualification include: rumor, speculation, beliefs, conclusions, or other non-factual matters . . . [and] prior rulings that were adverse to the moving party.” (emphasis in original)).

         III. Analysis

         Although Plaintiffs' dissatisfaction with me is manifest, there is no basis for concluding that my impartiality in this matter might reasonably be questioned. Indeed, the Tenth Circuit has made clear that although recusal motions are frequently based upon speculation or beliefs, prior adverse rulings in the proceeding, and/or baseless personal attacks on the judge by a party, none of these circumstances warrants recusal. Nichols v. Alley, 71 F.3d 347, 351 (10th Cir. 1995); see also Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994) (“Judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion. . . . [Further], judicial remarks during ...

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