United States District Court, C.D. California
NICHOLAS A. UCCI, Plaintiff,
LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., Defendant
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY
THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 144,
CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
Nicholas A. Ucci filed this action for alleged violations of
his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
on October 27, 2015. ECF No. 1. The case was eventually
assigned to United States Magistrate Judge Karen E. Scott.
ECF No. 44. Since filing his initial complaint, Ucci-who is
incarcerated and appearing pro se-has filed seven
amended complaints attempting to allege facts sufficient to
plead civil rights claims. See ECF Nos. 13, 19, 25,
67, 73, 77, 130. Ucci filed his seventh amended complaint,
the operative pleading in this case, on May 24, 2019. ECF No.
130 (“seventh amended complaint”). The seventh
amended complaint names the City of Los Angeles
(“City”), the Los Angeles Police Department
(“LAPD”), and eight individual police officers
employed by the LAPD as defendants. Id.
in separate filings, moved to dismiss the seventh amended
complaint on July 29, 2019 and August 12, 2019. ECF Nos. 132,
145, 148, 152, 155. Ucci filed an opposition on July 29,
2019, ECF No. 154, to which defendants filed a reply on
August 12, 2019, ECF No. 157. After ordering supplemental
briefing, on November 26, 2019, Magistrate Judge Scott
submitted a 39-page report to this Court, pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636, recommending that the
Court grant defendants' motion and dismiss Ucci's 7AC
with prejudice. See ECF No. 167
(“R&R”). In response, Ucci filed objections
to the R&R on December 19, 2019. See ECF No. 168
(“R&R Objs.”). The next day, on December 20,
2019, Magistrate Judge Scott issued an order construing parts
of Ucci's objections as a motion to disqualify the
Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 or
455, and, pursuant to Local Rule 72-5, referred the request
to disqualify to this Court for determination. See
ECF No. 169 (“Referral Order”).
carefully considered Ucci's arguments, the Court finds
and concludes as follows.
may be disqualified pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144
(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.” The affidavit must set forth “the
facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice
exists.” 28 U.S.C. § 144. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 455 (“Section 455”), judges must also
disqualify themselves “in any proceeding in which
[their] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
substantive standard for disqualification is the same under
both Sections 144 and 455: a judge may be disqualified if
“a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts
would conclude that the judge's impartiality might
reasonably be questioned.” United States v.
Studley, 783 F.2d 934, 939 (9th Cir. 1986) (citation
omitted). Critically, the alleged bias cannot result from
mere disagreement, however vehement, with a judge's
rulings; instead, “the alleged bias must stem from an
‘extrajudicial source.'” United States v.
Hernandez, 109 F.3d 1450, 1454 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 548 (1994)).
“[O]pinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts
introduced or events occurring in the course of the current
proceedings, or of prior proceedings, do not constitute a
basis for a bias or partiality motion unless they display a
deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair
judgment impossible.” Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555.
objections, Ucci asserts that: “Plaintiff objects to
this court hearing this case and moves for a different venue
or a jury trial in a different venue with a Judge not
affiliated with Los Angeles Judges, Orange County, or San
Diego. Preferably San [F]rancisco or Sacramento or a
different state.” R&R Objs. at 7. From what the
Court can tell, the basis for Ucci's request for
disqualification is the assertion that “[t]he court has
clearly demonstrated prejudice” against him by, among
other things, granting defendants' motion to dismiss,
failing to adopt his objections to the Magistrate Judge's
prior recommendations, and “limiting discovery”
and “obstructing plaintiff['s] prosecution”
of his case. Id. at 5, 6, 7.
Court finds Ucci's motion to disqualify Magistrate Judge
Scott to be without merit. Disagreements with the
“[o]pinions formed by the judge” in ruling upon
the proceedings before her, without more, “do not
constitute a basis for a bias or partiality motion.”
Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555; see also Studley,
783 F.2d at 939 (noting that a judge's “prior
adverse ruling is not sufficient cause for recusal”).
Although, in Ucci's view, Magistrate Judge Scott has
“demonstrated prejudice” against him by denying
his discovery and dismissing his prior complaints, R&R
Objs. at 7, Ucci's disagreement with the particulars of
Magistrate Judge Scott's reasoning, or the conclusions
she has reached, does not provide grounds for
disqualification or a finding of bias. See United States
v. Azhocar, 581 F.2d 735, 739 (9th Cir. 1978)
(“Adverse rulings do not constitute the requisite bias
or prejudice of [28 U.S.C. § 144]”) (citing
Berger v. United States, 255 U.S. 22, 34 (1921)).
Quite to the contrary, Magistrate Judge Scott's thorough
and carefully-reasoned 39-page recommendation assessing the
sufficiency of Ucci's allegations-the eighth
vsersion of those allegations that she has permitted Ucci to
file-demonstrates the seriousness with which she has
evaluated Ucci's claims, and the repeated opportunities
she has afforded Ucci to cure their defects. Ucci accordingly
fails to raise any grounds warranting disqualification.
foregoing reasons, Ucci's request for disqualification is