United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISQUALIFY JUDGE RE: DKT. NO.
MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge
Bernardo Mendia moves to disqualify this Court from presiding
over this action. Mot., Dkt. No. 223. Defendants John Garcia,
Ching Chang, and the United States of America (collectively,
“Defendants”) filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 233)
and Plaintiff filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 237). This matter came
before the Court on April 27, 2017. Having considered the
parties' arguments, the record in this case, and the
relevant legal authority, the Court DENIES
action arises out of allegedly unlawful immigration detainers
that Garcia and Chang (together, the “Federal
Defendants”), both U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (“ICE”) agents, placed on Plaintiff
in 2007 while he was in pretrial detention. Plaintiff,
proceeding pro se, initiated this action in 2010.
See Compl., Dkt. No 1. He filed his First Amended
Complaint (“FAC”) on August 11, 2011. Dkt. No.
March 20, 2012, the Court dismissed the FAC on the ground
that Plaintiff lacked Article III standing. Dkt. No. 51.
Plaintiff appealed (Dkt. No. 52), and on April 8, 2014, the
Ninth Circuit reversed, holding Plaintiff could show that
Defendants caused his injury and thus had standing to sue.
See Mendia v. Garcia, 768 F.3d 1009 (9th Cir. 2014).
December 17, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiff 90 days to
obtain counsel and seek leave to file a second amended
complaint (“SAC”). Dkt. No. 63. Plaintiff did not
retain counsel, but timely sought leave to amend on March 10,
2015 (Dkt. No. 64) and filed his SAC on April 1, 2015 (Dkt.
No. 68). Defendants moved to dismiss the SAC. Dkt. Nos. 87,
90. Plaintiff subsequently obtained pro bono counsel (Dkt.
No. 93; see Dkt. No. 101 at 1) and filed Oppositions
to both Motions to Dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 96, 98). Thereafter,
the parties notified the Court that Plaintiff intended to
seek leave to file a third amended complaint
(“TAC”) and stipulated to suspend the briefing
deadlines related to the Motions to Dismiss pending the
Court's ruling on Plaintiffs anticipated motion for leave
to file a TAC. Dkt. Nos. 99-100.
February 26, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in
part Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File a TAC. Dkt. No. 107.
The Court permitted Plaintiff to amend the SAC to assert (1)
Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2671 et seq., claims against the United States for
intentional infliction of emotional distress, false
imprisonment, and negligence; and (2)
Bivensclaims against the Federal Defendants
for violations of Plaintiff s First Amendment right to free
speech, Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure,
and Fifth Amendment right to equal protection. Id.
at 10-31. The Court found the Federal Defendants were not
entitled to qualified immunity at that time. Id. at
26-31. The Court did not permit amendment as to Plaintiffs
proposed (1) Fifth Amendment self-incrimination and
substantive due process claims, (2) Eighth Amendment
excessive bail claim against the Federal Defendants, (2)
declaratory relief claims, and (3) claims against ICE Field
Office Director Timothy Aitken. Id. at 31-42. On
April 22, 2016, the Federal Defendants appealed that Order.
Dkt. No. 134.
10, 2016, the Court denied the Federal Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss the TAC. Dkt. No. 138. Among other things, the
Court again found the Federal Defendants were not entitled to
qualified immunity. Id. at 8-19. The Federal
Defendants appealed this Order as well. Dkt. No. 146.
14, 2016, the Court “partially stay[ed] discovery
against [the Federal] Defendants as to the Bivens
claims but allow[ed] discovery against them restricted to
their roles as witnesses in the FTCA claims against the
United States.” Dkt. No. 143 at 10. The parties engaged
in discovery thereafter and participated in a settlement
counsel withdrew from representation on August 25, 2016. Dkt.
No. 170. Consequently, the Court stayed all proceedings,
vacated all deadlines, and referred Plaintiff to the San
Francisco Federal Pro Bono Project to attempt to find an
attorney to represent Plaintiff in settlement proceedings.
Dkt. No. 171. The Pro Bono Project was unable to find new
counsel for Plaintiff. See Dkt. No. 173. On October
31, 2016, the Court determined “the matter must proceed
with Plaintiff representing himself pro se for the time
being.” Id. It lifted the stay, scheduled a
case management conference (“CMC”), and ordered
the parties to meet and confer and file a joint CMC statement
no later than one week prior to the conference. Id.
parties filed separate CMC statements. Dkt. Nos. 175
(Defs.' Statement), 177 (Pl.'s Statement). Defendants
represented that “since November 18, 2016,
Defendants' counsel ha[d] repeatedly (and unsuccessfully)
tried to seek Plaintiffs compliance with the Court's
October 31, 2016, order” but that “[a]s of
filing, Defendants' counsel ha[d] heard nothing more from
Plaintiff about the Amended Case Management Statement, as
well as other discovery-related matters.” Defs.'
Statement at 2 n.1. Defendants also noted several discovery
concerns, including (1) Plaintiffs failure to engage in
discovery discussions; (2) Plaintiffs failure to comply with
his discovery obligations under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26(a)(1)(A)(iii); (3) Plaintiffs unauthorized
disclosure of documents covered by the parties'
protective order; and (4) difficulties with holding in-person
meet and confer sessions, as Plaintiff had moved to Mexico.
Id. at 7-13; see Pl.'s Statement at 1
(“Plaintiff is domiciled in Mexico City.”). In
his statement, Plaintiff indicated he was in the process of
obtaining counsel and requested a sixty-day continuance of
the CMC to allow him to do so. Pl.'s Statement at 6-8.
Court held the CMC on December 22, 2016. Attorney H. Nelson
Meeks appeared on Plaintiffs behalf for the limited purpose
of representing Plaintiff at the CMC. Dkt. No. 183;
see Dkt. No. 178. At the conference, the Court
ordered Plaintiff to, among other things, recall any
documents covered by the protective order that he had
disclosed to third parties. Dkt. No. 182 ¶ 2. The Court
also set a further CMC for February 23, 2017 to give
Plaintiff additional time to obtain counsel. Id.
February 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a status report describing
his unsuccessful search for counsel. Dkt. No. 190. Plaintiff
also filed a Motion to Stay the proceedings pending
resolution of the Federal Defendants' appeals. Dkt. No.
Court held a further CMC on February 23, 2017, at which
Plaintiff appeared. The Court ordered, inter alia, Plaintiff
to request his file from his former counsel and produce to
Defendants documents pertaining to the computation of his
damages. Dkt. No. 194 ¶¶ 1-2. The Court stated it
would hold a hearing on Plaintiffs Motion to ...