United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY OR
RECUSE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 455
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
March 21, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Patrick M.
Curley for extortion, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 875(d). Indictment (ECF No. 2). On April 7,
2014, Mr. Curley pleaded guilty to the crime charged in the
indictment. Minute Entry (ECF No. 72). On January
20, 2015, I sentenced Mr. Curley to twenty-four months of
incarceration, one year of supervised release, and a $100.00
special assessment. J. (ECF No. 91). I did not
impose a fine or restitution obligation. Id. On
November 15, 2016, Mr. Curley filed a petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 contending that his conviction should be
vacated, set aside, or corrected. Mot. Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sent. by a
Person in Fed. Custody (ECF No. 119). With the petition,
Mr. Curley filed a motion for me to recuse myself from ruling
on his § 2255 petition. Mot. to Recuse [and]
Disqualify U.S. Dist. Judge, John A. Woodcock, Under 28
U.S.C. § 455 - - - in Consideration of My Habeas Corpus
Pet. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 - - - Due to His
‘Impartiality' to Have My ‘2255' Pet.
Reassigned to Another Judge in the Dist. (ECF No. 122)
recusal motion, Mr. Curley states that he is proceeding under
both 28 U.S.C. § 455 and 28 U.S.C. § 144.
Id. at 1-4. In fact, Mr. Curley argues that because
he filed an affidavit under 28 U.S.C. § 144 that accuses
me of bias, I am “obligated” to recuse myself.
Id. at 3.
Curley's view of § 144 would require every judge
faced with an affidavit from a litigant who swears the judge
was biased to recuse himself or herself from the case. This
is not the way § 144 has been interpreted. Once a §
144 motion has been filed, a judge is required to “pass
upon the legal sufficiency” of the affidavit.
United States v. Giorgi, 840 F.2d 1022, 1035 (1st
Cir. 1988). In United States v. Kelley, 712 F.2d 884
(1st Cir. 1983), the First Circuit observed that
“[w]hen an affidavit of personal bias or prejudice is
filed pursuant to § 144, a trial judge is not required
immediately to recuse himself. Although the trial judge may
not pass upon the truth of the matters asserted, the trial
judge must pass upon the legal sufficiency of the
affidavit.” Id. at 889 (citations omitted).
end, the First Circuit has written that “[f]acts
learned by a judge while acting in his judicial capacity
cannot serve as a basis for disqualification on account of
personal bias.” Id. As the United States
Supreme Court has written, “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) (citing United States v.
Grinnell Corp., 384 U.S. 563, 583 (1966)); see also
United States v. Laureano-Pérez, 797 F.3d 45,
73-74 (1st Cir. 2015) (citing Liteky, 510 U.S. at
555). In other words, judges generally should not recuse
themselves if the basis of the request arises from the
affidavit, Mr. Curley simply declares that I am biased and
not impartial, but he states no facts (and I am aware of
none) that suggest I have any knowledge of him other than
what I learned during his criminal case. Mr. Curley has no
right to force me off his case simply by declaring, even
under oath, that I am so prejudiced against him that I cannot
be fair. One of the policies militating against recusal is
that judges should guard against attempts by litigants to
“manipulat[e] the system for strategic reasons, perhaps
to obtain a judge more to their liking.” In re
Allied-Signal, Inc., 891 F.2d 967, 970 (1st Cir. 1989)
(Breyer, J.) (citations omitted).
evaluating Mr. Curley's motion, I am also cognizant that
Rule 4(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in
the United States District Courts provides that the original
motion under § 2255 shall be forwarded “to the
judge who conducted the trial and imposed sentence.”
See Tracey v. United States, 739 F.2d 679, 681-82
(1st Cir. 1984).
continue with the premise that judges have a duty to decide
the cases that come before them. The First Circuit Court of
Appeals has written that “[t]here is as much obligation
for a judge not to recuse himself when there is no occasion
as there is for him to do so when there is.” Brody
v. Pres. & Fellows of Harvard Coll., 664 F.2d 10, 12
(1st Cir. 1981) (quoting In re Union Leader Corp.,
292 F.2d 381, 391 (1st Cir. 1961)). Indeed, the First Circuit
noted that “the judicial system could not function if
judges could deal but once in their lifetime with a given
defendant.” United States v. Cowden, 545 F.2d
257, 266 (1st Cir. 1976). In Blizard v. Frechette,
601 F.2d 1217, 1221 (1st Cir. 1979), the First Circuit wrote
that “[a] trial judge must hear cases unless some
reasonable factual basis to doubt the impartiality or
fairness of the tribunal is shown by some kind of probative
evidence.” Id. at 1221.
motion, Mr. Curley states that if I do not voluntarily recuse
and disqualify myself from his § 2255 petition, he will
“appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First
Circuit and ask the Appeals Court to ‘ORDER' my
matter to be reassigned to another judge.”
Pet'r's Mot. at 4. He asks that his petition
be stayed “until the matter of this motion can be fully
[adjudicated] by the Appeals Court . . . and if necessary up
to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Id. He assures me
that he will do “everything I can, legally, in the
courts, to have Judge Woodcock not be the judge to review my
‘2255' petition . . . I DESERVE a fair and
‘impartial' review.” Id.
with Mr. Curley that he deserves a fair and impartial review,
but I disagree with him that I am unable to give him one. If
Mr. Curley wishes to appeal this ruling, he is certainly free
to do so, and if he wishes to have his petition stayed while
the appellate courts resolve his appeal, he should file a
motion specifically requesting a stay.
Patrick M. Curley's Motion to Recuse [and] Disqualify
U.S. District Judge, John A. Woodcock, Under 28 U.S.C. §
455 - - - in Consideration of My Habeas Corpus Petition Under
28 U.S.C. § 2255 - - - Due to His
‘Impartiality' to Have My ...