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Springer v. Hunt

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 18, 2019

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

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO DISQUALIFY MAGISTRATE JUDGE KEVIN S. C. CHANG, ECF NO. 142

          J. MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ruth-Ann Springer, proceeding pro se, filed a letter which the court construes as a Motion to Disqualify Magistrate Judge Kevin S.C. Chang. ECF No. 142. Plaintiff identifies no valid reason to remove Judge Chang from this action. Accordingly, the Motion is DENIED.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Background

         On June 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against numerous Defendants, including several Hawaii County Police Officers and realtor Lori Henbest (collectively, “Defendants”), based on events arising from a State of Hawaii foreclosure and eviction. ECF No. 1. On July 11, 2017, the court granted Plaintiff's Application to proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No. 4, and on August 4, 2017, issued an order directing service of the Complaint, ECF No. 16. The Clerk entered default against Henbest on April 11, 2018. ECF No. 82.

         Some of the orders issued by Magistrate Judge Chang during the course of this litigation include: (1) a June 29, 2018 order denying Plaintiff's request for free access to court documents, ECF No. 98; (2) a July 10, 2018 order granting Defendants' motion to compel discovery of Plaintiff's medical records and warning Plaintiff that sanctions may be imposed if she fails to comply timely, ECF No. 104; (3) an August 28, 2018 order compelling Plaintiff to comply with the July 10 order by September 4, 2018 and warning that failure to comply timely “will result in the imposition of sanctions, which may include dismissal of this action, ” ECF No. 124; and (4) a September 13, 2018 order granting Henbest's motion to set aside entry of default, ECF No. 140.

         On September 14, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion seeking an order disqualifying Magistrate Judge Chang because he “is being very biased and prejudice[d] in the way he is presiding and ruling in this case.” Mot. at 4. Plaintiff contends that Magistrate Judge Chang is therefore, “unfit to preside and rule” in this action. Id. at 1. On October 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to stay this action due to unforeseen medical complications. ECF No. 156. On October 11, 2018, Judge Chang granted the motion and stayed this action until January 31, 2019. ECF No. 157. On October 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed an “Affidavit of Facts to Remove Judge Chang From Case #17-00269 JMS-KSC Due to Bias and Prejudice.” ECF No. 160.

         Judge Chang retired from active duty on January 4, 2019, and this case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Rom Trader as referral judge. ECF No. 161. On January 28, 2019, Judge Trader sua sponte continued the stay of this action until February 28, 2019. ECF No. 166. On February 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to extend the stay another six months. ECF No. 170. Judge Trader denied that motion on March 11, 2019, thereby terminating the stay. ECF No. 178.

         Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.

         B. Standard of Review

         The applicable standards for disqualification of a federal judge are found in 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455.[1] As provided in 28 U.S.C. § 144:

Whenever a party to any proceeding in a district court makes and files a timely and sufficient affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed no further therein, but another judge shall be assigned to hear such proceeding.
The a\ffidavit shall state the facts and the reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists, and shall be filed not less than ten days before the beginning of the term at which the proceeding is to be heard, or good cause shall be shown for failure to file it within such time. A party may file only one such affidavit in any case. It shall be ...

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