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Jessica Seymour v. United States Department of Defense

February 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge


Plaintiff Jessica Seymour, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (IFP) (Doc. No. 7 (granting motion for leave to proceed IFP)), has submitted a third amended complaint alleging forty-two causes of action against over one hundred defendants. (Doc. No. 77 (TAC).) Also before the Court are Plaintiff's earlier filed "Challenge for Cause" against the undersigned District Judge (Doc. No. 18 (Recusal Mot.)) and motion for change of venue (Doc. No. 16 (Venue Mot.)).*fn1 After full consideration of the issues, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's recusal motion, DENIES Plaintiff's motion for change of venue, and DISMISSES this action WITH PREJUDICE pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).*fn2


Plaintiff filed this Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) action on May 6, 2010. (Doc. No. 1.) On June 4, 2010, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP. (Doc. No. 7.) Since then, Plaintiff has thrice amended her complaint (Doc. Nos. 8, 48, 77) and filed a host of motions (e.g. Doc. Nos. 16, 18, 32, 58, 80, 82, 99).

Plaintiff's operative third amended complaint alleges a vast conspiracy, beginning in 2004, involving scores of governmental and private actors. (See TAC.) According to Plaintiff, the conspiracy stems from "personal issues Defendants have due to their hate and their pre-existing vendetta against the family of a man" Plaintiff began dating in April 2004. (Id. ¶ 10.) By way of example, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants conspired to install video cameras in her house "to gain sexual footage of [her] for the conspired scheme to set [her] up to look like a prostitute" (id. ¶ 12); that she was "driven off the road, sexually violated, harassed, stalked, and tormented" (id. ¶ 13); that Defendants conspired to "defraud [her] out of [her] Home Affordable TARP Fund Modification" (id. ¶ 14); and that Defendants threatened to "have a [two] person psychiatric team take [her] away to the mental hospital" if she reported the alleged crimes (id. ¶ 13).


1. Legal Standard

Under§ 455(a), "[a]ny justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." The test for recusal under § 455(a) is an objective one; a judge must recuse herself if "a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned." United States v. Holland, 519 F.3d 909, 913 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Clemens v. U.S. Dist. Court, 428 F.3d 1175, 1178 (9th Cir. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 548 (1994). "The 'reasonable person' is not someone who is 'hypersensitive or unduly suspicious,' but rather is a 'well-informed, thoughtful observer.'" Holland, 519 F.3d at 913 (quoting In re Mason, 916 F.3d 384, 386 (7th Cir. 1990)).

Recusal under § 455(a) is limited by the extra-judicial source doctrine, "which generally requires as the basis for recusal something other than rulings, opinions formed[,] or statements made by the judge during the course of the trial." Id. at 913--14. "Put differently, the judge's conduct during the proceedings should not, except in the 'rarest of circumstances' form the sole basis for recusal under § 455(a)." Id. at 914. The doctrine applies with equal force if the basis for recusal is attributable to prior judicial experience. See Clemens, 428 F.3d at 1178--79 (holding that "prior rulings in . . . another proceeding, solely because they were adverse," ordinarily are not sufficient to require recusal under § 455(a)).

2. Analysis

According to Plaintiff, the undersigned should recuse herself from hearing the instant case because "a reasonable member of the public at large, aware of all the facts, would fairly entertain doubts" as to the undersigned's partiality.*fn3 (Recusal Mot.1.)

The first basis for Plaintiff's recusal motion is easily dispatched. Plaintiff complains of the undersigned's dismissal with prejudice of two earlier-filed actions, Seymour v. United States Department of Defense, Case No. 10-CV-678 JLS (POR) (Seymour I) and Seymour v. United States Department of Defense, Case No. 10-CV-770 JLS (POR) (Seymour II). (Recusal Mot. 2 (referring to the undersigned's "unnecessary assigning of prejudice to [Plaintiff's] request for the protection of a restraining order . . . and petition to have depositions ordered prior to bringing suite [sic]"); see Seymour I, Doc. No. 5; Seymour II, Doc. No. 4.) Under the extra-judicial source doctrine, however, prior rulings generally do not justify recusal, and this is not an exceptional case. Accordingly, undersigned's rulings in Seymour I and Seymour II do not provide a basis for recusal.

Second, Plaintiff contends that a reasonable person would question the undersigned's impartiality because "all of [Plaintiff's] court transactions get steered to" this Court. (Recusal Mot.

2.) This argument lacks merit. Pursuant to the "low-number rule," "all pending civil actions and proceedings, which are determined to be related . . . will be assigned to the district and magistrate judge to whom the lowest numbered case was assigned." S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 40.1(h). Civil actions are related if, inter alia, they "arise from the same or substantially identical transactions, happenings, or events." S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 40.1(d)(1). Plaintiff's complaints in Seymour I, Seymour II, and this action all arise from the same alleged conspiracy. (See TAC; Seymour II, Doc. No. 1; Seymour I, Doc. No. 1.) Thus, the District Court Clerk properly assigned all of Plaintiff's cases to this Court pursuant to Local Civil Rule 40.1. (E.g., ...

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