United States District Court, E.D. California
ALLISON CLAIRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se. Petitioner seeks
relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The matter was
referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.
18, 2019, petitioner filed a motion requesting that this case
be reassigned to a different magistrate judge. See
generally ECF No. 19. For the reasons stated below, the
motion will be denied. The mechanism by which petitioner may
seek district judge review of this ruling is explained below.
PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR REASSIGNMENT
motion for reassignment is addressed to “the Chief
Judge and En Banc Court.” See ECF No. 19. In
support of reassignment, petitioner cites to Appendix A of
this court's Local Rules. See id. Petitioner
contends that his case has not yet been reviewed, which
demonstrates a “deep-seated favoritism or
antagonism” on the part of the undersigned “that
would make fair judgment impossible.” See id.
(citation omitted). He further asserts that the undersigned
is “conflicted” and “tempted to disregard
neutrality, ” and that “such conflicts offend due
process.” See Id.
Petitioner's Motion Is Not Cognizable as Framed
motion is not cognizable as framed. Appendix A, Section (f)
of the Local Rules does not provide for motions seeking the
reassignment of a case, nor provide any grounds for
reassignment; it simply describes the administrative process
for reassignment under various circumstances. See
generally Local Rules, App. A (E.D. Cal. 2009).
the only judges who may consider a motion in a case are the
judges assigned to that case. There is no provision in the
Rules of Civil Procedure or the Local Rules for consideration
of any case-related matter by the Chief Judge or by the
district court sitting en banc. This case is assigned to the
undersigned magistrate judge and to U.S. District Judge
Morrison C. England. The case is referred to the undersigned
by Local Rule 302(c)(17), which assigns all prisoner cases to
the magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. This
means that non-dispositive matters are decided by the
magistrate judge directly, with the possibility for
reconsideration by the district judge. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); Local Rule 303(b),
(c). Dispositive pre-trial matters are considered in the
first instance by the magistrate judge, who submits Findings
and Recommendations to the district judge for final ruling.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b); Local Rule 304. A litigant cannot avoid the referral
to the magistrate judge by directing a motion to the district
judge or Chief Judge. The only motion that the rules permit
to be directed in the first instance to the district judge is
a Request for Reconsideration by the District Court of
Magistrate Judge's Ruling. Local Rule 303(c).
The Motion Is Construed as a Motion for Recusal
light of the substance of petitioner's motion, the
undersigned construes it as one for recusal. The Ninth
Circuit has “held repeatedly that the challenged judge
h[er]self should rule on the legal sufficiency of a recusal
motion in the first instance.” United States v.
Studley, 783 F.2d 934, 940 (9th Cir. 1986) (brackets
added) (citing United States v. Azhocar, 581 F.2d
735, 738 (9th Cir. 1978) (collecting cases)). “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.” 28 U.S.C. §
144. “Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the
United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in
which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
28 U.S.C. § 455(a). Under both recusal statutes, the
substantive standard is “whether a reasonable person
with knowledge of all the facts would conclude that the
judge's impartiality might reasonably be
questioned.” Studley, 783 F.2d at 939 (quoting
Mayes v. Leipziger, 729 F.2d 605, 607 (9th Cir.
1984) (internal quotations omitted)).
motion provides no facts that support his allegation that the
undersigned has shown favoritism or antagonism, nor does it
provide any facts indicating that the undersigned has any
prejudice towards petitioner. On the contrary,
petitioner's allegation of bias is primarily predicated
on the amount of time his case has been on the docket.
See, e.g., ECF No. 19 (petitioner alleging
magistrate has not addressed matter in past fourteen months).
No reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would
conclude that the delay indicates judicial partiality.
Eastern District of California carries one of the largest and
most heavily weighted caseloads in the nation. See
Office of the Clerk, United States District Court, Eastern
District of California, 2019 Annual Report,
“Workload Statistics, ” p. 35 (2019) (“Our
weighted caseload still exceeds the national average . . .
ranking us eighth in the nation and second in the Ninth
Circuit.”). This problem is compounded by a shortage of
jurists to review its pending matters. See generally
id. (stating 2019 Biennial Judgeship Survey recommended
preliminary request for five additional permanent judgeships
for Eastern District of California).
frustration with the pace of proceedings is entirely
understandable, and likely shared by most if not all civil
litigants proceeding in this court. The pace of this case is,
unfortunately, typical of prisoner cases in this court. It