United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY F.VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Recusal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 and 28 U.S.C. §
455. [R. 97.] For the following reasons, Defendant's
motion is DENIED.
United States of America sued Defendant John Steele on behalf
of the Internal Revenue Service over Mr. Steele's failure
to pay federal income taxes. In the complaint, the Government
seeks a judgment as to Mr. Steele's indebtedness and a
tax lien on a farm in Bagdad, Kentucky. The Court has already
granted the United States partial summary judgment in this
matter. [R. 69.] Since filing of the Complaint, Mr. Steele,
proceeding pro se, has filed a number of motions in
attempt to dismiss this lawsuit. On December 20, 2018, Mr.
Steele filed the most recent in his litany of motions: a
Motion for Recusal, a Motion for Due Process and Hearing, and
a Motion to Void Order of Partial Summary Judgment. [R. 97;
R. 98; R. 99.]
§ 144, whenever a party to a proceeding in district
court makes a motion and files a 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 judge must recuse. A party may
only file one of these motions in any case, and that motion
must be accompanied by a certificate from the counsel of
record stating that the motion was made in good faith. 28
U.S.C. § 144. It is well settled that 28 U.S.C. §
455 “must be construed in para materia”
with § 144. United States v. Story, 716 F.2d
1088, 1091 (6th Cir. 1983). Under both statutes, recusal is
not subjective and is required “if a reasonable,
objective person, knowing all of the circumstances, would
have questioned the judge's impartiality.”
Hughes v. United States, 899 F.2d 1495, 1501 (6th
Steele filed his motion without a “certificate from the
counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith,
” as required by § 144. 28 U.S.C. § 144. The
Court is mindful of the standard applicable to pro se
litigants. See Spotts v. United States, 429 F.3d
248, 249 (6th Cir. 2005). Where a party is without
representation, pro se pleadings “must be held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976)). However, the Court is not at liberty to ignore the
plain-language requirements of §§ 144 and 455.
Because Mr. Steele has not complied with the statutory
requirement, his motion must be denied. Scott v.
Metropolitan Health Corp., 234 Fed.Appx. 341, 352-53
(6th Cir. 2007).
even if this Court were to overlook Mr. Steele's lack of
proper certification, his motion still fails.
“[D]isqualification under section 455(a) must be
predicated as previously under section 144, upon
extrajudicial conduct rather than on judicial conduct.”
United States v. Story, 716 F.2d 1088, 1091 (6th
Cir. 1983). “‘Personal' bias is prejudice
that emanates from some source other than participation in
the proceedings or prior contact with related cases.”
Wheeler v. Southland Corp., 875 F.2d 1246, 1251 (6th
Cir. 1989) (quoting Demjanjuk v. Petrovsky, 776 F.2d
571, 577 (6th Cir. 1985)). It is well established that
personal bias cannot arise from the Court's view of the
law, and “judicial rulings alone almost never
constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality
motion.” Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S.
540, 555 (1994). Judges are presumed to be impartial, and the
moving party carries the burden of proving otherwise.
Scott v. Metropolitan Health Corp., 234 Fed.Appx.
341, 352 (6th Cir. 2007).
grounds for recusal, Mr. Steele alleges that this Court has
“plainly demonstrated a favorable bias in this action
by providing legal arguments for the plaintiff instead of
ruling on the actual erroneous arguments put for by the
plaintiff in its pleadings, ” and “prejudicially
provid[ed] arguments, answers, and pleadings for the
plaintiff[.]” [R. 97 at 3.] Mr. Steele makes no
citation to the record, nor provides any example of an
instance in which this Court has “provided legal
arguments for the plaintiff.” Id. Furthermore,
Mr. Steele does not identify or allege any extrajudicial
source that would allow an inference of personal bias. Judges
are presumed to be impartial, and the moving party carries
the burden of proving otherwise. Scott v. Metropolitan
Health Corp., 234 Fed.Appx. 341, 352 (6th Cir. 2007). In
addition to failing to comply with the statute, Mr. Steele
has failed to carry this substantial burden. See Id.
Mr. Steele's mere assertion that the undersigned has
demonstrated personal bias does not form a valid basis for a
motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 or 455.
before the Court is Mr. Steele's Motion for Due Process
and a Hearing. [R. 98.] Mr. Steele believes this Court has
violated his due process rights because “the record of
the court lacks a complete and proper declaration of the
fully granted subject-matter jurisdiction of the court that
is alleged by the plaintiff can be taken over the
action.” Id. According to Mr. Steele, this
“deficiency” is a violation of his due process
rights. In light of the arguments therein, the Court
construes this pleading as a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
Steele makes a similar argument in his Motion to Void Order
of Partial Summary Judgment. [R. 99.] Here, Mr. Steele moves
the court to void its previous order [R. 69] pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) and (b)(4). [R. 99
at 1.] The order is void, he says, due to “the lack of
a properly identified, fully declared, constitutionally
authorized and enforceable, subject matter jurisdiction of
the district court to entertain this action[.]”
Id. The Court will also construe this motion as a
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Court has previously addressed Mr. Steele's arguments
against the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. These
motions are nothing more than a repetition of those same
arguments, dressed in new clothes. Having already considered
and denied several such motions to ...