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Arellano v. Haskins

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 10, 2020

ERIK ARELLANO, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD HASKINS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER CONSTRUING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION AS A REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION AND DISQUALIFICATION DUE TO BIAS (DOC. 44) ORDER DENYING THE MOTIONS

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Erik Arellano asserts Bakersfield Police Officers Chad Haskins and Frederick Martinez used excessive force after he surrendered to their arrest. (Doc. 9) Previously, Plaintiff sought appointment of counsel and to have the Court issue a subpoena to KGET/News Network “to provide video footage of the incident for evidence.” (Docs. 19, 35, and 38) On December 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed “a supportive arguement (sic) to a previously denied motion to subpoena, ” asserting the Court erred in denying both his motion for a subpoena and his request for appointment of counsel. (Doc. 44 at 1-2) Plaintiff also contends the Court has exhibited bias against him in its rulings. (Id.)

         As set forth below, the Court construes the document as a request for reconsideration and disqualification of the assigned magistrate judge. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motions are DENIED.

         I. Background

         Kern County Superior Court records in No. BF162809A[1] indicate Plaintiff was arrested on January 14, 2016, and charged with violations of California Vehicle Code § 2800.4 (evading a peace officer by driving in the opposite of traffic), California Vehicle Code § 2800.4 (driving recklessly while evading a peace officer), California Penal Code § 30305(a)(1) (possession of ammunition by a person prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm), and California Penal Code § 69 (obstruction or resistance of an officer through the use of threat or violence). Plaintiff pleaded no contest to each of these charges and was sentenced to more than fourteen years in prison.

         Plaintiff alleges that on the day of his arrest, he led officers on “a considerably slow-speed chase for over two hours.” (Doc. 9 at 2) Plaintiff asserts his vehicle “did in fact come to a full stop, with three tires blown out by spike strips, ” after which “Plaintiff surrendered, with his hands in the air and eventually laying prone on the ground.” (Id. at 3) Plaintiff contends that after he surrendered, Bakersfield Police Officers Chad Haskins and Frederick Martinez had “a few minutes of deliberations” after which they shot “a rubber bullet projectile into the body of Plaintiff.” (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff contends Officers Haskins and Martinez “release[d] the K-9 (dog) unit to attack Plaintiff while he was still in the state of total surrender.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, “The Defendants failed to cease and desist the use of the attack dog for several minutes, and while they watched, the Defendants did observe their K-9 Unit rip, tear and cause great and serious injuries upon the body of Plaintiff.” (Id.) Based upon the foregoing facts, Plaintiff contends the officers are liable for a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force. (Id. at 3-4)

         The Court reviewed the allegations of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint and determined service was appropriate. (Doc. 10) Officers Haskins and Martinez were served with the summons and complaint, and filed their answer on May 23, 2018. (Doc. 13).

         On December 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion for appointment of counsel, reporting he had “no knowledge or any legal training in the land and has/is relied/relying solely on the assistance of Jailhouse Lawyers.” (Doc. 19 at 1) Plaintiff also indicated his belief that the action is complex in nature, because the anticipated discovery includes video recordings of the underlying incident. (Id.) The Court informed Plaintiff that in most civil cases, there is no constitutional right to counsel, but attorneys may be requested to represent indigent persons in exceptional circumstances. (Doc. 21 at 2, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1); Rand v. Rowland, 113 F.3d 1520, 1525 (9th Cir. 1997)) The Court found the exceptional circumstances did not exist, and denied the motion without prejudice. (Id.)

         On January 8, 2019, the Court issued a scheduling order in this case, directing the parties to exchange their initial disclosures no later than January 28, 2019. (Doc. 24 at 1, 3) In addition, the Court ordered the parties to complete all non-expert discovery no later than February 18, 2020. (Id.) Defendants served Plaintiff with interrogatories, a request for admissions, and a request for production of documents on February 13, 2019. (Doc. 28-1 at 2-3) Although responses were due no later than March 18, 2019, Plaintiff failed to respond. (Id.) On March 28, 2019, Defendants' Counsel notified Plaintiff through a letter “that his Initial Disclosure and discovery responses were delinquent.” (Id. at 3) Plaintiff failed to respond, after which Defendants filed a motion to compel discovery. (Doc. 28) The Court granted the motion on May 10, 2019. (Doc. 30) Defendants later requested Plaintiff be compelled to provide further discovery responses, and the motion was granted. (Docs. 34, 37)

         In September 2019, Plaintiff filed a second motion for appointment of counsel. (Doc. 35) Plaintiff asserted appointment of counsel was necessary because his “imprisonment will Greatly (sic) limit his ability to litigate” and “[t]he issues involved in this case are complex.” (Doc. 35 at 1) The Court again denied the motion for counsel, observing that Plaintiff's incarceration “is a circumstance experienced by numerous litigants in this Court and alone is not basis for appointment of counsel.” (Doc. 37 at 5) Further the Court observed that the “case does not involve complex questions of fact or law, ” and the Court remained “unable to determine that the plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits” at that juncture in the proceedings. (Id. at 5-6) Because exceptional circumstances did not exist for the appointment of counsel, the request was denied. (Id. at 6)

         On October 11, 2019, Plaintiff requested that the Court issue a subpoena to KGET/News Network “to provide video footage of the incident for evidence.” (Doc. 38 at 2) The Court noted Plaintiff failed to clearly identify what video footage he believed the news entity possessed. (Doc. 41) In addition, the Court noted a media privilege may apply to the footage, and Plaintiff failed to show the information sought was relevant or a compelling reason for the disclosure. (Id. at 3) The Court also noted that Plaintiff indicated “the footage is available on the Internet.” (Id.) Due to the lack of specific information regarding the video footage, the Court denied the motion for a subpoena without prejudice. (Id. at 3-4)

         Plaintiff filed a response to the Court's order on December 23, 2019, indicating the was providing “supportive arguement (sic)” to the prior motion for a subpoena. (Doc. 44) Plaintiff also asserts the Court has exhibited “biasness and prejudice” against him in the rulings on his motions related to appointment of counsel and for discovery. (See Id. at 1-2) Accordingly, the Court construes the document to be a request for reconsideration of its orders and for disqualification of the assigned magistrate judge.

         II. Motion for Disqualification [2]

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), “[a]ny justice, judge, or magistrate [magistrate judge] of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” In addition, a ...


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