United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Thurmond R. Guess, Sr., Plaintiff,
Sharon Y. Hipps; State Farm Insurance; H. Ranald Stanley; John Austin Hood; Gallivant White Boyd; Johnston Cox; William P.A. Buyck, III; GEICO Indemnity Co.; Elliot B. Daniels; South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, Defendants.
J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on the motion of the plaintiff,
Thurmond R. Guess, Sr., to recuse the assigned magistrate
judge. (ECF No. 13.) Finding no basis for recusal, the court
denies Guess's motion.
of federal judges is generally governed by 28 U.S.C. §
Subsection (a) of § 455 provides that “[a]ny
justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States
shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” In the
Fourth Circuit, this standard is analyzed objectively by
considering whether a person with knowledge of the relevant
facts and circumstances might reasonably question the
judge's impartiality. United States v. Cherry,
330 F.3d 658, 665 (4th Cir. 2003). For purposes of this
statute, the hypothetical “reasonable person” is
not a judge, since judges, who are trained to regard matters
impartially and are keenly aware of that obligation,
“may regard asserted conflicts to be more innocuous
than an outsider would.” United States v.
DeTemple, 162 F.3d 279, 287 (4th Cir. 1998). The
“reasonable person” is a “well-informed,
thoughtful observer, ” but not one who is
“hypersensitive or unduly suspicious.” In re
Mason, 916 F.2d 384, 386 (7th Cir. 1990).
455(a) does not require recusal “simply because of
unsupported, irrational or highly tenuous speculation,
” or because a judge “possesses some tangential
relationship to the proceedings.” Cherry, 330
F.3d at 665 (internal quotation omitted). The Fourth Circuit
recognizes that overly cautious recusal would improperly
allow litigants to exercise a “negative veto”
over the assignment of judges simply by hinting at
impropriety. DeTemple, 162 F.3d at 287. Recusal
decisions under § 455(a) are “fact-driven and may
turn on subtleties in the particular case.” United
States v. Holland, 519 F.3d 909, 913 (9th Cir. 2008).
(b) of § 455 further provides a list of specific
instances where a federal judge's recusal is mandated,
regardless of the perception of a reasonable observer.
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 567 (1994)
(Kennedy, J., concurring). Pertinent here, § 455(b)(1)
disqualifies a judge “[w]here he has a personal bias or
prejudice concerning a party.” 28 U.S.C. §
455(b)(1). Bias or prejudice must be proven by compelling
evidence. Brokaw v. Mercer Cty., 235 F.3d 1000, 1025
(7th Cir. 2000). Moreover, the United States Supreme Court
has made clear that to warrant disqualification, “[t]he
alleged bias or prejudice . . . must stem from an
extrajudicial source . . . other than what the judge learned
from his participation in the case.” United States
v. Grinnell Corp., 384 U.S. 563, 583 (1966). In applying
the extrajudicial source doctrine, the Supreme Court has held
judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis
for a bias or partiality motion. In and of themselves
(i.e., apart from surrounding comments or
accompanying opinion), they cannot possibly show reliance
upon an extrajudicial source; and can only in the rarest
circumstances evidence the degree of favoritism or antagonism
required . . . when no extrajudicial source is involved.
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994)
Guess argues that he did not consent for his case to be
assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge. He also
requests that the assigned magistrate judge be recused
because Guess “cannot get a fair trial” and
alludes to the judge's previous rulings in other cases in
which Guess did not prevail.
Guess points to no extrajudicial source of bias or prejudice.
Moreover, as stated above, mere disagreement with judicial
rulings and unsupported allegations of bias are insufficient
to warrant recusal. Additionally, pursuant to the Local Civil
Rules of this district, all pretrial proceedings in civil
cases involving a pro se litigant are automatically
referred to a United States Magistrate Judge. See
Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.). Accordingly, it is
that the plaintiffs motion to recuse is denied.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Notably, § 455 largely tracks the
language of Canon 3(C) of the Code of Conduct for United
States Judges, which also governs recusal ...