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Ariel Balthrope v. Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services; et al

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


February 21, 2012

ARIEL BALTHROPE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

ORDER

This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's motion for the undersigned's recusal. (ECF 57.) Plaintiff did not notice this motion for hearing, nor is a hearing necessary.

28 U.S.C. § 455(a) provides: "Any justice, judge, or magistrate . . . of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Plaintiff contends the undersigned's "judgment would be considered jeopardized" due to her prior position on the Sacramento City Council. In addition, plaintiff contends that the undersigned as a magistrate judge "has already made a biased ruling in the pertaining case of [her] father's suit of similar interest."

"[I]n the absence of a legitimate reason to recuse [ ], 'a judge should participate in cases assigned.'" United States v. Holland, 519 F.3d 909, 912 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Maier v. Orr, 758 F.2d 1578, 1583 (9th Cir. 1985)). However, judges "are as bound to recuse [themselves] when the law and facts require as [they] are to hear cases when there is no reasonable factual basis for [their] recusal." Id. "In analyzing [a] § 455(a) disqualification motion[], [the court] employ[s] an objective test: 'whether a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the judge's impartiality may reasonably be questioned.'" Clemens v. United States Dist. Court, 428 F.3d 1175, 1178 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Herrington v. Cnty of Sonoma, 834 F.2d 1488, 1502 (9th Cir. 1988) (internal quotation omitted)). Section 455(a) analysis is fact driven. Id. "[S]peculation" and "prior rulings in . . . another proceeding" are generally insufficient for a § 455(a) recusal. See id. at 1178-79 (internal quotation omitted).

Here, having carefully reviewed plaintiff's complaint and the pending motion, the court concludes that no reasonable person could "perceive[] a significant risk that the [undersigned] will resolve the case on a basis other than the merits." Id. at 1178 (internal quotation omitted). Accordingly, the undersigned does not recuse herself and this motion is denied.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20120221

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