United States District Court, D. Maine
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
1, 2013, James Stile filed a civil action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Somerset County and a number of other
County and some State Defendants, alleging that the
Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was a
pre-trial detainee at Somerset County Jail from December 20,
2011, until February 1, 2012. Compl. (ECF No. 1)
(1:13-cv-00248-JAW). On October 14, 2014, Mr. Stile filed a
second civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Cumberland County and a number of County Defendants, alleging
that the Defendants violated his constitutional rights while
he was a pre-trial detainee at the Cumberland County Jail
from February 1, 2012, until January 15, 2013.
Compl. (ECF No. 1) (2:14-cv-00406-JAW).
February 27, 2017, Mr. Stile filed what he termed a
“Special Omnibus Motion for Recusal” in both
cases. Special Omnibus Mot. for Recusal (ECF No.
414) (1:13-cv-000248-JAW); (ECF No. 183) (2:14-cv-00406-JAW)
(Recusal Mot.). The motions are identical and the
Court therefore addresses them as one. To Mr. Stile's
motion, he attached nine exhibits that involve encounters Mr.
Stile has had with the Magistrate Judge assigned these cases.
Upon the issuance of this Order, the Magistrate Judge will
consider the motion separately because Mr. Stile has moved
not only for my recusal but also for the Magistrate
first note that, with one exception, Mr. Stile does not base
his motion for recusal on any of my rulings in his two
pending civil cases. There are 414 docket entries in the
Somerset County case and 184 in the Cumberland County case. I
have issued fewer than ten orders in each case. Moreover,
with few exceptions, my involvement has been to review orders
issued by the Magistrate Judge under either the de novo
review or clearly erroneous legal standard.
Stile complains about one ruling in the Somerset County case
in which I affirmed the Magistrate Judge's refusal to
disqualify defense counsel. Recusal Mot. at 5
(citing Order Den. Appeal of Magistrate Judge
Decision (ECF No. 315) (1:13-cv-00248-JAW)). Although
Mr. Stile did not like that ruling, it was an affirmance of a
recommended decision from the Magistrate Judge and, having
re-reviewed it, I view my affirmance as unremarkable, and I
detect no hint of any bias or prejudice against Mr. Stile.
See Order Den. Appeal of Magistrate Judge Decision
(ECF No. 315). In short, I know of no valid reason to recuse
myself based on my involvement to date in either civil case,
nor has Mr. Stile alleged one.
Mr. Stile claims that I should recuse myself because I
presided over his criminal case. It is not uncommon for a
criminal defendant, who has been convicted and sentenced, to
later question the fairness and justice of the process that
led to his conviction and incarceration. Furthermore, a
sentencing judge has an obligation to tell a defendant why
the judge is imposing a particular term of incarceration,
including occasionally making direct and hard comments about
the crime the defendant committed. Here, Mr. Stile admitted
that he committed a robbery of controlled substances from a
DEA registered pharmacy, a violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2118. Minute Entry (ECF No. 541)
(1:11-cr-00185-JAW). Among other things, he acknowledged that
he entered the pharmacy with his “head and face . . .
covered with a baseball cap, sunglasses and a dust mask,
” that he was “wearing purple latex-type gloves
and a dark blue jacket with a white horizontal strip on the
back, ” that he “went to the rear of the store
and pulled what appeared to be a sawed off shotgun from his
pants, ” that he “pointed what appeared to be a
sawed off shotgun at the owner and the three female employees
who were behind the pharmacy counter, ” that he
“ordered the three female employees to lie on the floor
behind the counter, ” that he “told the owner of
the pharmacy to fill a black bag with narcotics, ” and
that he “tied the hands and feet of [a] customer and
the three employees with grey and white zip ties.”
Prosecution Version (ECF No. 542)
criminal conduct speaks for itself, and Mr. Stile should not
have been surprised that I condemned it at his sentencing.
Moreover, that I presided over his criminal prosecution is
not a proper ground for recusal in a later civil lawsuit. In
fact, in the somewhat analogous cases by an incarcerated
person under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the law expressly
provides that the petition for post-conviction relief be
heard by “the court which imposed the sentence.”
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). More fundamentally, even though Mr.
Stile committed a serious crime and merited a serious
punishment, this does not mean that he should be mistreated
while he is a prisoner. If he is able to establish that he
was mistreated, the law provides civil remedies against the
individuals who mistreated him and, as a judge, I am sworn to
uphold the law. In other words, from my perspective, Mr.
Stile's criminal case and his civil cases are unrelated.
these reasons, I reject Mr. Stile's request for recusal.
I start 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
upon 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)).
continue with another premise that judges should not recuse
themselves if the basis of the request is a litigant's
disappointment in a result. 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) (quoting Liteky).
short, I see no basis for my recusal, and I DENY James
Stile's Special Omnibus Motion for Recusal (ECF No. 414)