Point XIII & XIV
The District Court erred in denying the first motion to disqualify when she: “Plaintiff Akins’ motion to recuse or disqualify [Doc. 15] is denied.” (Add. P 10)
The District Court further erred in not assigning this motion to a different judge for ruling and then denying the Second verified motion to disqualify when she found: “The video report does not constitute a basis for recusal or disqualification” (Add p 23) and, “The Court concludes that a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would not question the undersigned’s impartiality” (Add. p.26)
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. . . . It shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of record stating that it is made in good faith. (emphasis added)
In Akins the 2d Motion to Recuse or Disqualify, filed under oath and with the best knowledge and belief of Akins’ counsel, satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 144. Invoking the mandatory “another judge shall be assigned” to rule on that bias motion. In failing to assign the qualifying 2d Motion to another judge and denying the motion herself Judge Laughrey acted contrary to the commands of law.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp, 486 U.S. 847, (1987) held, “1. A violation of § 455(a)—which requires a judge to disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned—is established when a reasonable person, knowing the relevant facts, would expect that a judge knew of circumstances creating an appearance of partiality, . . . To require scienter as an element of a § 455(a) violation would contravene that section’s language and its purpose of promoting public confidence in the integrity of the judicial system. . . .
2. Vacatur was a proper remedy for the § 455(a) violation in the circumstances of this case. . . . Here, despite his lack of actual knowledge of Loyola’s interest in the dispute during trial, Judge Collins’ participation in the case created a strong appearance of impropriety” Id., at 848. See also Moran v. Clarke, 296 F.3d 638 at 648 (8th Cir. 2002)
In Hall v. S.B.A., 695 F.2d 175 (5th Cir. 1983) held, “Judicial ethics reinforced by statute exact more than virtuous behavior; . . . These expectations extend to those who make up the contemporary judicial family, the judge’s law clerks and secretaries. Because a magistrate’s sole law clerk was initially a member of the plaintiff class in this suit, . . . , we hold that the magistrate erred in refusing to disqualify himself. We, therefore, reverse the judgment and remand for a new trial before a judge or another magistrate.” In the instant case Judge Laughrey’s husband Chris Kelly held a position of trust for the Appellee City of Columbia as Chair of the Mayor’s Task Force. An association that had drawn condemnation from a local news outlet Columbia Heart Beat for Judge Laughrey’s role presiding over another Columbia case.
The fact that in Akins case video evidence related directly to Judge Laughrey’s ruling in Williams and the prior judicial complaint by Akins’ counsel and the litany of bias allegations contained within both the First and Second Motions all are sufficient to establish for a reasonable person an appearance of impropriety.
Due Process Clause incorporated the common-law rule requiring recusal when a judge has ‘a direct, personal, substantial, pecuniary interest’ in a case … however, this Court has also identified additional instances which, as an objective matter, require recusal where ‘the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decision maker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable.” Id., at 876-877.
Finally, Judge Laughrey has a personal bias against Akins’ counsel because he previously filed a judicial complaint (J.C.P. #08-11-90060). Related to conduct in a previous case in which she denied a “toxic publicity” request for continuance and moved up the trial date four days causing counsel and his client significant prejudice. In that case, Judge Laughrey endorsed the Defendants’ settlement offer of $45,000, calling it “excellent” and expressing surprise that the plaintiff had not “grabbed” the offer. Judge Laughrey went on to advise the plaintiff about the excellent nature of the highway patrol’s reputation and that she had “farmers” on her juries. Judge Laughrey also commented about “plaintiffs with issues” referring to plaintiff, who was confused by the reference.
In Hurles v. Ryan, 650 F.3d 1301 (9th Cir. 2011) said;
“[a] fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement of due process… [i]ndeed, the legitimacy of the Judicial Branch ultimately depends on its reputation for impartiality and nonpartisanship. This most basic tenet of our judicial system . . . An appearance of impropriety, regardless of whether such impropriety is actually present or proven, erodes that confidence and weakens our system of justice.” Id., at 1309
“To safeguard the right to a fair trial, the Constitution requires judicial recusal in cases where ‘the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decision maker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable.’” Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 47(1975).
Due process required judicial recusal from ruling on the Akins’ Motions to Disqualify. The nature of the motion, the potential personal effect on Judge Laughrey, her previous relationship with Columbia as a municipal judge, and the judicial complaint filed against her by the Akins’ counsel combined to create a potential for bias that was too high to be constitutionally tolerable.