Griffin v. New Orleans City et al, No. 2:2014cv00559 - Document 54 (E.D. La. 2014)

Court Description: ORDER AND REASONS: the 50 Motion to Recuse under 28 U.S.C. 455 is GRANTED, and the 51 Motion to Recuse under 28 U.S.C. 144 is DENIED AS MOOT.Judge Susie Morgan recused. Case reassigned to Judge Lance M Africk for all further proceedings. Signed by Judge Susie Morgan on 12/31/2014. (my)(NEF: SM, LMA)
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Griffin v. New Orleans City et al Doc. 54 U N ITED STATES D ISTRICT COU RT EASTERN D ISTRICT OF LOU ISIAN A TREN T STEVEN GRIFFIN , SR., Plain tiff CIVIL ACTION VERSU S N O. 14 -559 CITY OF N EW ORLEAN S, ET AL., D e fe n d an ts SECTION : "E" ORD ER AN D REASON S This m atter com es before the Court on two m otions by the Plaintiff, Trent Steven Griffin, Sr., seeking recusal of the undersigned judge in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455, respectively.1 For the following reasons, the Motion to Recuse under 28 U.S.C. § 455 is GRANTED, and the Motion to Recuse under 28 U.S.C. § 144 is DENIED AS MOOT. The Clerk of Court should reallot this m atter to another Section of this Court. BACKGROU N D On March 12, 20 14, Plaintiff Trent Steven Griffin, Sr., filed a Com plaint for Dam ages against the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Police Departm ent, am ong other defendants.2 Plaintiff filed dual-m otions to recuse, asking that the undersigned judge be recused from the m atter under 28 U.S.C. § 144 and 28 U.S.C. § 455. The m otions to recuse, which will be addressed together, are the subject of this Order. 1 R. 2 Docs. 50 , 51. R. Doc. 1. 1 Dockets.Justia.com LEGAL STAN D ARD Title 28, sections 144 and 455, require, inter alia, the disqualification of a judge in any proceeding in which his or her im partiality m ight reasonably be questioned, as well as when he or she has a personal bias or prejudice against a party.3 In pertinent part, section 144 states, specifically, that upon a m ovant’s “tim ely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the m atter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice against either him or in favor of any adverse party, the judge shall proceed no further.”4 For the affidavit to be sufficient, “[t]he facts m ust be such that, if true, they would convince a reasonable person that bias exists,” and “[t]he facts m ust show the bias is personal, as opposed to judicial in nature.”5 Sim ilarly, section 455(a) states, in pertinent part, that a judge should recuse him self or herself “in any proceeding in which his [or her] im partiality m ight reasonably be questioned.”6 “In order to determ ine whether a court’s im partiality is reasonably in question, the objective inquiry is whether a well-inform ed, thoughtful and objective observer would question the court’s im partiality.”7 Moreover, “the purpose of § 455(a), and the principle of recusal itself, is not just to prevent actual partiality, but to avoid the appearance of partiality.”8 In assessing a m otion to recuse under section 455(a), the court should be guided “by an independent exam ination of the facts and circum stances of the particular claim .”9 3 See 28 U.S.C. §§ 144, 455. 28 U.S.C. § 144. 5 Phillips v. Joint Legislative Com m . on Perform ance & Expenditure Review of Miss., 637 F.2d 10 14, 10 19 (5th Cir. 1981). 6 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). 7 Trust Co. v. N.N.P., 10 4 F.3d 1478, 1491 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing United States v. Jordan, 49 F.3d 152, 155– 58 (5th Cir. 1995)). 8 Republic of Panam a v. Am erican Tobacco Co. Inc., 217 F.3d 343, 346 (5th Cir. 20 0 0 ) (quoting Jordan , 49 F.3d at 155). 9 Id. 4 2 LAW AN D AN ALYSIS Recusal under 28 U.S.C. § 144 is not warranted in the present m atter. Under section 144, the m ovant’s affidavit m ust show that the bias is personal, not judicial, in nature. Here, the alleged bias or prejudice arises out of the undersigned judge’s role in overseeing im plem entation of the Consent Decree between the United States of Am erica and the City of New Orleans for the reform of the New Orleans Police Departm ent (the “Consent Decree”).10 However, “a judge’s role in overseeing a consent decree is part of his [or her] judicial responsibilities and is not evidence of ‘personal’ or ‘extrajudicial’ bias.”11 Therefore, the undersigned’s role in overseeing the Consent Decree does not bar this Court from deciding m atters involving the City of New Orleans or the New Orleans Police Departm ent as it is not evidence of any actual bias or prejudice against or in favor of the City of New Orleans. Nevertheless, under section 455(a), recusal is appropriate. Section 455(a) requires that a judge be recused “in any proceeding in which his [or her] im partiality m ight reasonably be questioned.”12 Recognizing that section 455(a) claim s m ust be analyzed in light of the particular facts at hand, the Court finds the im partiality of the undersigned could reasonably be questioned by a well-inform ed, thoughtful, and objective observer in a case against the City of New Orleans alleging m isconduct of its police departm ent. The Consent Decree covers a broad array of issues including recruitm ent and training, perform ance evaluations and prom otions, m isconduct and discipline. It calls for new departm ental policies governing the use of force, searches and seizures, arrests, interrogation, lineups and m ore. The Court holds regular status 10 United States v. New Orleans City , No. 12-1924. EBI-Detroit, Inc. v. City of Detroit, 279 F. App’x 340 , 354 (6th Cir. 20 0 8) (quoting Reed v. Rhodes, 179 F.3d 453, 468 (6th Cir. 1999)). 12 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). 11 3 conferences and hearings with officials of the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Police Departm ent to discuss m atters governed by the Consent Decree including the type of wrongdoing alleged in this case. The undersigned is responsible for ensuring that the New Orleans Police Departm ent achieves the reform s set forth in the Consent Decree, a task that m andates knowledge of and fam iliarity with the New Orleans Police Departm ent and its operations. Although the Court has no bias or prejudice in favor of or against the New Orleans Police Departm ent, the present m atter involves allegations of m isconduct against the police departm ent. In light of the undersigned's role as overseer of the Consent Decree, recusal is appropriate under Section 455(a) to avoid even the appearance of im propriety. CON CLU SION Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455, Plaintiff’s Motion to Recuse is GRAN TED , and IT IS ORD ERED that the Clerk of Court reallot this m atter to another Section of this Court. N e w Orle an s , Lo u is ian a, th is 3 1s t d ay o f D e ce m be r, 2 0 14 . ________________________________ JU D GE SU SIE MORGAN U N ITED STATES D ISTRICT JU D GE 12/31/14 2/15/05 4