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United States v. Milford

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

July 27, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Eugene Milford, Defendant.


          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, recommending summary judgment for Plaintiff, and on Defendant's motion to disqualify Magistrate Judge Baker from this case. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion to disqualify Magistrate Judge Baker, adopts the Report and Recommendation, and grants summary judgment for Plaintiff

         I. Background

         Defendant was disbursed $62, 408.18 in May 1999 on a note issued under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and signed by Defendant on April 20, 1999. Following demand of payment, Defendant defaulted on March 25, 2005. On May 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present suit on a note. On December 21, 2015, Plaintiff filed an affidavit stating that Defendant owes $106, 751.79 in principal, interest, and costs (of $67.49) as of that date, and that interest continues to accrue at the rate of $4.77 per diem. Plaintiff also seeks costs and attorney's fees.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         When a proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a district court is required to consider all arguments directed to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before the magistrate." United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[t]he district court's decision whether to consider additional evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal will be reviewed for abuse." Doe v. Chao, 306 F.3d 170, 183 & n.9 (4th Cir. 2002). "[A]ttempts to introduce new evidence after the magistrate judge has acted are disfavored, " though the district court may allow it "when a party offers sufficient reasons for so doing." Caldwell v. Jackson, 831 F.Supp.2d 911, 914 (M.D. N.C. 2010) (listing cases).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Motion to Disqualify Magistrate Judge Baker

         Defendant moves to disqualify Magistrate Judge Baker from this case because she formerly worked as an Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") and in that role represented the United States.[1] Magistrate Judge Baker would be disqualified from involvement in this proceeding due to her previous government employment only if she "participated as counsel, adviser or material witness concerning the proceeding or expressed an opinion concerning the merits of the particular case in controversy." 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(3). "As applied to judges who were formerly AUSAs, § 455(b)(3) requires some level of actual participation in a case to trigger disqualification." United States V. Ruzzano,247 F.3d 688, 695 (7th Cir. 2001). Defendant provides several pages of materials to establish the undisputed fact that Magistrate Judge Baker once worked as an AUSA, but he does not allege any actual ...

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