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Harley S. Bridgeman Jr v. United States of America

December 15, 2010

HARLEY S. BRIDGEMAN JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARLEY S. BRIDGEMAN, JR.; CHANDA J. BRIDGEMAN, DEFENDANTS.
HARLEY S. BRIDGEMAN, JR., COUNTERCLAIMANT,
v.
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, ET AL., COUNTERDEFENDANTS.
HARLEY S. BRIDGEMAN, JR., THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Presently before the court are two motions for recusal filed by defendant Harley S. Bridgeman, Jr., who is the plaintiff in the matter of Bridgeman v. United States et al., No. 2:10-cv-1457 JAM KJN PS ("Bridgeman I"), and is the defendant, counterclaimant, and third-party claimant in the related, but not consolidated, matter of Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n v. Bridgeman, No. 2:10-cv-2619 JAM KJN PS ("Bridgeman II").*fn1 Mr. Bridgeman filed a Motion for Recusal in both above-captioned actions on December 8, 2010, and noticed his motion for a hearing to take place before the undersigned on January 6, 2011. (Bridgeman I, Dkt. No. 42; Bridgeman II, Dkt. No. 79.) Because oral argument would not be of material aid to the resolution of the pending motions, the undersigned submits this matter on the briefs and record and vacates the January 6, 2011 hearing date.*fn2 Having reviewed Mr. Bridgeman's moving papers and the record in this case, the undersigned denies the motions for recusal in Bridgeman I and Bridgeman II.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

As indicated above, Mr. Bridgeman has filed two actions in this court that are pending before the undersigned. In Bridgeman I, Mr. Bridgeman alleges a number of claims arising from the termination of his employment and the subsequent foreclosure and sale of his home. All of the defendants in Bridgeman I filed motions to dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

Relevant here and as discussed below, the undersigned held a hearing on the motions to dismiss filed by defendants T.D. Service Company, Fremont Bank, and Federal National Mortgage Association on November 18, 2010. (Bridgeman I, Dkt. No. 66.) The undersigned submitted the motion to dismiss filed by defendant United States of America without a hearing. The undersigned has not yet entered any orders or findings and recommendations resolving the pending motions to dismiss.

In Bridgeman II, plaintiff Federal National Mortgage Association filed a single claim for unlawful detainer against Mr. Bridgeman and his estranged wife in California state court, and Mr. Bridgeman removed that matter to this court. Federal National Mortgage Association moved to remand Bridgeman II to state court, and the undersigned submitted the motion to remand without a hearing. The undersigned has not yet entered an order or findings and recommendations resolving that motion to remand.

On December 8, 2010, Mr. Bridgeman filed the instant motions for recusal of the undersigned. Briefly stated, Mr. Bridgeman moves the undersigned to recuse or disqualify himself from Bridgeman I and Bridgeman II pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144, on the grounds that the undersigned has "demonstrated a predisposition that is wrongful according to the Code of Judicial Conduct for United States Judges." (Motion for Recusal at 2.) As discussed below, Mr. Bridgeman's motions arise from an exchange between the undersigned and Mr. Bridgeman at the November 18, 2010 hearing in Bridgeman I, during which Mr. Bridgeman demanded in an elevated tone that the undersigned answer questions posed by Mr. Bridgeman regarding, among other things, the undesigned's knowledge about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court's Local Rules. The undersigned declined to answer the questions posed by Mr. Bridgeman. As communicated to Mr. Bridgeman on the record at the November 18, 2010 hearing, the undersigned held that hearing only in order to determine whether Mr. Bridgeman should be permitted leave to amend his operative complaint in Bridgeman I insofar as certain of the defendants were concerned. Mr. Bridgeman chose not to answer any of the questions posed by the undersigned and, in turn, Mr. Bridgeman hostilely demanded that the undersigned answer questions posed by Mr. Bridgeman.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144, a party may file a "timely and sufficient affidavit" seeking to preclude the assigned judge from presiding over the matter any further as a result of "a personal bias or prejudice" as to a party in the action. Section 144 provides, in its entirety:

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 either against 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.

The affidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be filed not less than ten days before the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in any case. It shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith.

28 U.S.C. § 144.

Although not asserted as a basis for disqualification in Mr. Bridgeman's motions, a United States magistrate judge may disqualify himself or herself for several reasons presented in 28 U.S.C. ยง 455. Of note here, "[a]ny . . . magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself ...


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