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Springer v. Hunt

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 4, 2017

RUTH-ANN SPRINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER BRIAN HUNT, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER: (1) DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT; AND (2) DIRECTING SERVICE OF THE ORIGINAL COMPLAINT

          J. Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Ruth-Ann Springer's (“Plaintiff”) “Complaint: Writ of Error is of the District of the Hawaii Federal: Title 42, ” which the court construes as a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). ECF No. 14. The FAC names the undersigned, among many others, as new Defendants. FAC at 1; Ex. B at 4, ECF No. 14-2. For the reasons set forth below, the court declines to recuse itself from this case, DISMISSES the FAC without leave to amend, and DIRECTS service of the original Complaint, ECF No. 1.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Original Complaint

         On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed her original Complaint against Hawaii County Police (“HCP”) Officer Brian Hunt (“Hunt”); HCP Sargent Wakita (“Wakita”); HCP Sargent Tingle (“Tingle”); HCP Officer Shane Travis (“Travis”); HCP Officer Kenneth Ishii (“Ishii”); realtor Lori Henbest (“Henbest”) (collectively, the “Eviction Defendants”); and State of Hawaii Judge Harry P. Freitas (“Judge Freitas”), ECF No. 1, along with an Application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”), ECF No. 4. On June 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Temporary Injunction. ECF No. 9.

         The original Complaint asserts (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against Judge Freitas, and the Eviction Defendants in their individual capacities only, for violation of, and conspiracy to violate, Plaintiff's statutory and/or constitutional rights, particularly those protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (2) state-law claims. Compl. at 4-7, 11.[1] These claims appear to arise from State of Hawaii foreclosure and eviction, and subsequent criminal, proceedings. In addition to allegations connected to these claims, the original Complaint contains numerous nonsensical opinions, assumptions, conclusory allegations, and pronouncements.[2]

         On July 11, 2017, this court granted the IFP Application, dismissed the original Complaint in part for failure to state a claim, denied a temporary injunction, and granted Plaintiff leave to amend (the “July 11 Order”). ECF No. 11. More specifically, the July 11 Order dismissed the conspiracy claim with leave to amend, dismissed claims against Judge Freitas without leave to amend, and found that the original Complaint stated “plausible § 1983 claims for unlawful seizure and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and state-law claims for assault and battery and [intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“IIED/NIED”)].” Id. at 15-16. The conspiracy claim was dismissed based on Plaintiff's failure “to allege specific facts showing any ‘meeting of the minds, ' to deprive Plaintiff of her constitutional rights.” Id. (citing Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423, 441 (9th Cir. 2002) (explaining that to state a § 1983 conspiracy claim, a plaintiff “must show an agreement or ‘meeting of the minds' to violate constitutional rights”)).

         The July 11 Order granted Plaintiff leave to amend “to attempt to cure the deficiency in her conspiracy claim, and to replead all claims that are not dismissed by this Order, but not to add new or different claims.” Id. at 16 (emphasis added). Finally, the July 11 Order warned Plaintiff that if she failed to file an amended complaint as set forth in that order by August 4, 2017, “the [original] Complaint will remain the operative pleading and the court will issue an order directing service.” Id. at 18-19.

         B. The FAC

         On August 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant FAC, which includes (1) seventeen pages that largely list statutes and assert incomprehensible pronouncements;[3] (2) Exhibit A, ECF No. 14-1, which appears to be an invoice for Plaintiff's appearances in state court; (3) Exhibit B, ECF No. 14-2, which lists the original Defendants and sixteen new Defendants;[4] (4) Exhibit C, ECF No. 14-3, which appears to be an invoice for damages from property losses and the alleged assault against Plaintiff; (5) Exhibit D, ECF No. 14-4, Plaintiff's Declaration summarizing the events on the day Plaintiff was evicted and arrested; and (6) Exhibit E, ECF No. 14-5, state court public records of underlying state criminal actions against Plaintiff.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Recusal

         Because the FAC names the undersigned as a Defendant, the court initially addresses whether recusal is necessary or appropriate. The FAC names the undersigned in the caption and in Exhibit B, but does not include factual allegations clearly linking the undersigned to any specific claim. Construed liberally, however, the FAC may be alleging that by describing Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Injunction as “incomprehensible gibberish that fails to comply with applicable legal standards for granting injunctive relief, ” July 11 Order at 18, the undersigned committed a tort against, and violated and conspired to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights:

(27.) NOTE: FOR THE Plaintiff “In Propria Persona” IS-INJURED THROUGH CONSPIRACY, COLLUSION, TORT, FORCEFUL C.U.S.A.F.-CONTRACT, FOR PERJURY OF THE OATH, OR SURRENDER OF THE C.U.S.A.F. INTO THE FOREIGN/FICTION-STATE-LANGUAGE, FOR THE CONSTRUCTIVE-TREASON BY THE COURT. UNDER THE TITLE: 28: U.S.A. CODES: SECTION: 454 AND 455, FOR THE RESPONDENTS AND INCORPORATED INTO THE CASE FOR THE CONSPIRACY. . . . BY THE WRITTEN-LANGUAGE-WORD OF THE RESPONDENTS HUNT ET AL. REMARKS (I.E. GIBERISH) [(sic)] FOR THE DISPLAYING OF THE NEGLECT OF THE OATH OF THE COURT-OFFICER AND DEPRIVATION OF THE C.U.S.A.F. RIGHTS UNDER THE . . . TITLE: 28: C.U.S.A.F. CHAPTER: 21: SECTION: 454 AND . . . SECTION: 455, (b)(1)(4)(5)(ii)(iii), (d)(2) AS THE Plaintiff “In Propria Persona” IS-INJURED BY THE PRACTICE OF THE LAW BY THE JUDGES ON THE BENCH . . . .

FAC ¶ 27 (emphases added).

         The recusal statute provides that a judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). It further provides that a judge “shall also disqualify himself . . . [if he is] a party to the proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(5)(i). But, well-settled law also provides that “a judge is not disqualified merely because a litigant sues or threatens to sue him.” Ronwin v. State Bar of Ariz., 686 F.2d 692, 701 (9th Cir.1982), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Hoover v. Ronwin, 466 U.S. 558 (1984) (quotation marks omitted); see also Gabor v. Seligmann, 222 Fed.Appx. 577, 578 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Ronwin); In re Bush, 232 Fed.Appx. 852, 854 (11th Cir. 2007); In re Hipp, Inc., 5 F.3d 109, 116 (5th Cir. 1993); United States v. Grismore, 564 F.2d 929, 933 (10th Cir. 1977). “Such an easy method for obtaining disqualification should not be encouraged or allowed.” Ronwin, 686 F.2d at 701. This is because “a federal judge has a duty to sit where not disqualified which is equally as strong as the duty to not sit where disqualified.” Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824, 837 (1972) (Rehnquist, J., mem.). Thus, the Ninth Circuit has upheld a district judge's decision not to recuse himself after pro se plaintiffs named him as a defendant in their amended complaint. See Gabor, 222 Fed.Appx. at 578.

         And with regard to § 455(a), allegations of a judge's impartiality “must result from an extrajudicial source; a judge's prior adverse ruling is not sufficient cause for recusal.” United States v. Studley, 783 F.2d 934, 939 (9th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted); see also White v. Stephens, 2014 WL 4925867, at *4 (W.D. Tenn. Sept. 30, 2014) (“The basis for recusal under § 455(a) . . . cannot be a judge's prior ruling.”). Here, because the only allegation in the FAC connected to the undersigned references this court's July 11 Order, and the undersigned was only added as a Defendant in the FAC, neither § 455(a) nor § 455(b)(5)(i) mandate recusal.

         Further, the Code of Conduct for United States Judges (“Code of Conduct”) includes provisions regarding recusal that are similar to § 455's provisions. See Code of Conduct, Canon 3C. The Committee on Codes of Conduct issues advisory opinions regarding application of the Code of Conduct to various circumstances. ...


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