Monday, September 28, 2009

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Decision Not To Recuse Self, Fees and Dismissal Wih Prejudice As A Sanction

In Smith v. Atlanta Postal Credit Union (09-12060), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying a motion to recuse.  The court stated the recusal standard as follows:
A “judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). Generally, only personal bias stemming from extrajudicial sources is sufficient to disqualify a judge...An exception exists for judicial conduct demonstrating “such pervasive bias and prejudice that it constitutes bias against a party,” but neither “rulings adverse to a party, nor friction between the court and counsel constitute[s] pervasive bias.”...On the contrary, “the standard is whether an objective, fully informed lay observer would entertain significant doubt about the judge’s impartiality.”...Rulings against one party in favor of another, without more, do not require a judge to disqualify himself.
The court also addressed a challenge to attorneys fees and stated:
Smith’s argument that the district court should not have awarded fees for time expended by the associate because he had not yet entered an appearance is similarly unavailing. Neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the district court’s Local Rules require every attorney working on a case to enter an appearance before the court.
With respect to Smith’s contention that the imposition of sanctions required a finding of bad faith, Rule 37 fee awards, unlike sanctions imposed pursuant to the court’s inherent powers, do not require such a finding.
A district court does not abuse its discretion by dismissing an action with prejudice “[w]hen a party demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the court and the discovery process.”


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