United States District Court, N.D. California
February 18, 2014
TYRONE T. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
GOLDEN GATE FIELDS, et al., Defendants.
PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Tyrone T. Taylor has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455, seeking recusal of the undersigned district judge for bias and prejudice. Plaintiff bases this motion on his experience more than 20 years ago when he appeared in the Oakland-Piedmont Municipal Court, where the undersigned was a Traffic Commissioner. He also bases the motion on the fact that the undersigned remanded an unlawful detainer action that plaintiff twice improperly removed from state court, finding that this court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. See C-13-5039 PJH, H&H Property Management, LLC v. Taylor; C-13-5549 PJH, H&H Property Management, LLC v. Taylor.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 455, federal judges and magistrate judges must recuse themselves "in any proceeding in which [their] impartiality might be reasonably questioned[, ]" including if they have "a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 455(a), (b)(1); see United States v. Heffington , 952 F.2d 275, 278 (9th Cir.
The substantive standard for recusal under § 455 is "whether a reasonable person with the knowledge of all the facts would conclude the judge's impartiality might be questioned." Taylor v. Regents of the Univ. of Calif. , 993 F.2d 710, 712 (9th Cir. 1993) (quotations omitted); see also United States v. Hernandez , 109 F.3d 1450, 1453-54 (9th Cir. 1997). In addition, to the extent that a moving party seeks to disqualify a judge based on events that occur during the course of litigation, the party must demonstrate that the judge either (1) relied on knowledge acquired outside of the proceedings or (2) "displayed deep-seated and unequivocal antagonism that would render fair judgment impossible." See Liteky v. United States , 510 U.S. 540, 556 (1994).
Section 455, sets forth no procedural requirements. That section is directed to the judge, rather than the parties, and is self-enforcing on the part of the judge. United States v. Sibla , 624 F.2d 864, 867-68 (9th Cir. 1980). Section 455 includes no provision for referral of the question of recusal to another judge; if the judge sitting on a case is aware of grounds for recusal under § 455, that judge has a duty to recuse himself or herself. Id. at 868. In other words, when a judge sitting on a case is aware of grounds for recusal under § 455, that judge has a duty to recuse himself or herself. Id.
As this case was reassigned to the undersigned only five days ago, plaintiff cannot reasonably claim to be seeking recusal based on any events that occurred during this litigation. The only other basis for plaintiff's motion is that he is unhappy with Traffic Court decisions issued more than 20 years ago, and is also unhappy with the more recent decisions by this court that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over actions that plaintiff improperly removed to this court.
The motion is DENIED. The court finds no basis for a finding that the undersigned has any personal bias or prejudice against plaintiff. "[J]udicial rulings alone almost never constitute valid basis for a bias or partiality motion." Liteky , 510 U.S. at 555; see also Leslie v. Grupo ICA , 198 F.3d 1152, 1160 (9th Cir. 1999); United States v. $292, 888.04 in U.S. Currency, 54 F.3d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1995); Taylor, 933 F.2d at 712.
IT IS SO ORDERED.