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Federal National Mortgage Association v. Willis

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 22, 2018

CLARENCE MOSES WILLIS, et al., Defendants.


         Presently before the court is defendant Ernest C. Aldridge's motion to recuse district judge and request for oral argument. (ECF No. 234).

         I. Facts

         This case arises from allegations of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, slander of title, unjust enrichment, fraudulent conveyance, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1723(a), trespass, and quiet title to real property against defendants Clarence Moses Willis (“Willis”), Ernest C. Aldridge (“Aldridge”), Geri L. McKinnon, [1] and Creative Solutions 4 U, LLC (collectively, as “defendants”).

         Fannie Mae alleges that over the course of several months, defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to defraud Fannie Mae of its interest in eight (8) subject properties.[2] Fannie Mae further alleges that defendants, without any legal right or authorization by Fannie Mae, prepared, executed, and recorded deeds purporting to transfer title from Fannie Mae to defendants.

         On February 25, 2016, Fannie Mae filed an amended complaint, alleging nineteen (19) causes of action against the various defendants. (ECF No. 41).

         In the instant motion, Aldridge requests that the Honorable James C. Mahan recuse himself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 & 455. (ECF No. 234).

         II. Legal Standards & Discussion

         As an initial matter, the court acknowledges that Aldridge's documents were filed pro se and are therefore held to less stringent standards. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While Aldridge is pro se, he is nonetheless bound by the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. See King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987) (“Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.”); see also Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995) (“Although we construe pleadings liberally in their favor, pro se litigants are bound by the rules of procedure.”); Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986) (“[P]ro se litigants in the ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record.”).

         “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 against him or in favor of any adverse party, such judge shall proceed not further therein.” 28 U.S.C. § 144. Aldridge has not submitted an affidavit. Accordingly, his claim for recusal under § 144 fails.

         “Any justice, judge, or magistrate 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). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455, the presiding judge determines whether recusal is warranted. United 4912 Canadian Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89130 (APN No. 125-36-814-012) (the “Canadian property”); and 5654 Thunder Spirit Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89148 (APN No. 163-30-816-006) (the “Thunder Spirit property”) (collectively, as the “subject properties”). (ECF No. 41 at 5-14). United States v. Azhocar, 581 F.2d 735, 867-68 (9th Cir. 1978). Section 455(a) is broad, requiring recusal “in any proceeding in which [a judge's] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a); Liljeberg v. Health Serv. Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 860 n.8 (1988).

         In his motion, Aldridge requests that the district judge recuse himself because he has shown favoritism and improper conduct. (ECF No. 234). Aldridge alleges that plaintiff's law firm, Aldridge Pite LLP (no relation to defendant), filed the complaint and recorded lis pendens on the nine properties with no apparent authority from the plaintiff, Fannie Mae. (Id.). Aldridge contends that Aldridge Pite LLP failed to file a certificate of interested parties pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 7-1, and that this intentional failure “and the apparent waiver of that rule by Mahan is an impropriety that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that Mahan has a vested monetary interest in FNMA-DC and therefore will gain a profit or benefit from the outcome of this undertaking.” (Id.). Additionally, Aldridge offers baseless accusations the judge possesses biases as to gender, as well as in favor of BAR members and against pro se parties.

         Further, Aldridge alleges the court's repeated denials of defendants' subject matter and personal jurisdiction challenges amounted to the court “seiz[ing] jurisdiction” over the matter and “issu[ing] orders absent jurisdiction.” (ECF No. 234). As the court has explained in many previous orders, jurisdiction over this matter is proper. (ECF Nos. 114, 131, 185, 216).

         For § 455 recusal to be warranted, the source of any alleged bias must generally be extrajudicial. Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 551 (1994). Judicial bias or prejudice formed during current or prior proceedings is insufficient for recusal unless the judge's actions “display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.” Id. at 555. Thus, judicial rulings will support a motion for recusal only “in the rarest of circumstances.” Id.

         The court finds that Aldridge has failed to show that “the rarest of circumstances” exist to support a motion for recusal. While Aldridge alleges the judge possesses biases that are in fact extrajudicial, his allegations are baseless and outlandish. Nothing in the record indicates the judge possesses any kind of gender bias, nor that he is financially invested in the outcome of the matter. The judge's consistent denial of defendants' motions is a ...

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