United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR RECUSAL, TO
CHANGE VENUE, TO STAY CASE, AND FOR RECONSIDERATION. [ECF
NOS. 448, 449, 450, 451]
P. GORDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Darren Heyman filed this lawsuit against t the University of
Nevada Las Vegas and several individual defendants. This case
was originally randomly assigned to District Judge Boulware
and Magistrate Judge Foley, but was randomly reassigned to me
after Judge Boulware recused himself. ECF Nos. 1; 406.
Magistrate Judge Foley remains assigned to this case.
moves for (1) my recusal, (2) a change in venue, (3) a stay
in the proceedings until a new judge and venue are assigned,
and (4) reconsideration by the new judge of all previous
orders. ECF Nos. 448; 449; 450; 451.
contends I have ties to the William S. Boyd School of Law at
UNLV (UNLV Law School) that render me unable to be fair and
impartial or that my impartiality might be reasonably
questioned. Thus, I should recuse myself in accordance with
28 U.S.C. §§ 455(a) and 455(b)(1). Heyman alleges
that Judge Boulware and I have volunteered together at the
Nevada Bar's Annual Meeting (ECF No. 448-1 at 8-9); that
I actively volunteer for UNLV Law School (Id. at
10-14); that I have hired from and currently employ a
graduate of UNLV Law School (Id. at 15-17); that I
have supervised judicial externs who were students at UNLV
Law School (Id. at 18-24); and that I may have been
an employee of UNLV Law School (Id. at
25-26). He posits that because these alleged ties
were discovered through internet research, they are only
“a fraction of the reality that exists.”
Id. at 7. Heyman also argues that the fact that I
did not disclose these alleged relationships, did not address
Judge Boulware's recusal in a status conference (ECF No.
424), and ruled against him in multiple orders (ECF Nos. 424;
425; 427) also shows bias or produces the appearance of bias.
defendants respond that Ninth Circuit precedent does not
support the conclusion that my alleged ties to UNLV Law
School are sufficient grounds for recusal. ECF No. 454. They
also argue that prior rulings are almost never a proper basis
in federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 455.
Subsection 455(b) provides a list of circumstances in which a
judge is required to recuse himself, including when “he
has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party . . .
.” Subsection 455(a) requires recusal when “a
reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would
conclude that the judge's impartiality might reasonably
be questioned.” United States v. Studley, 783
F.2d 934, 939 (9th Cir. 1986). “The reasonable person
is not someone who is hypersensitive or unduly
suspicious.” United States v. Holland, 519
F.3d 909, 913 (9th Cir. 2008) (quotations omitted).
relationship between a federal judge and a law school does
not constitute grounds for recusal in cases in which the
affiliated university is a party, particularly when the case
does not involve the law school itself. See, In
re Complaint of Judicial Misconduct, 816 F.3d 1266, 1267
(9th Cir. 2016) (“It is well established that the law
‘does not require recusal for . . . minimal alumni
contacts . . . [including] when [a] judge was [an] alumnus of
defendant-university, served as unpaid adjunct professor who
offered internships for the university's law students,
gave the university a yearly donation for football
tickets,' or served as a ‘member of [a] school
alumni social organization.'” (quoting U.S. ex
rel. Hochman v. Nackman, 145 F.3d 1069, 1076 (9th Cir.
1998)). Prior “judicial rulings alone almost never
constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion,
” unless they “display a deep-seated favoritism
or antagonism that would make fair judgment
impossible.” Likety v. U.S., 510 U.S. 540, 555
(1994). Even “judicial remarks . . . that are critical
or disapproving of . . . the parties, or their cases,
ordinarily do not support a bias or partiality
is no basis for my recusal in this case. My prior rulings and
decisions do not reflect any deep-seated bias against Heyman
or his case. While I have and will continue to engage with
UNLV Law School through service, teaching, and hiring
students,  this relationship does not create a
personal bias or an appearance of bias such that recusal is
appropriate under § 455(b)(1) or § 455(a).
Similarly, the non-disclosure of these relationships does not
warrant recusal. I therefore deny Heyman's motion for
VENUE, STAY, AND RECONSIDERATION
moves for a change of venue under 28 U.S.C. §1404. ECF
No. 449. He relies on the same arguments he made for my
recusal and additionally asserts that (1) the same
relationship between UNLV and me likely exists for all judges
in the United States District Court for the District of
Nevada's unofficial southern division (Las Vegas); (2)
any Las Vegas judge to whom the case is reassigned will have
discussed the case with either Judge Boulware or me; and (3)
any jury selected from the Las Vegas area will be biased in
favor of the defendants. He suggests that Nevada's
unofficial northern division (Reno) would be more
appropriate, despite the added inconvenience for both
parties. The defendants respond that a change of venue is
unnecessary and burdensome.
concerns regarding bias and impropriety are misguided. Merely
having a relationship with UNLV Law School is not a basis for
changing the venue of a case that is now over four years old
and has had nearly 500 entries on the docket. I therefore
deny Heyman's motion to change venue.
also moves for reconsideration of all previous motions by the
judge who is reassigned to this case and for a stay in the
case until the reassignment is made. ECF Nos. 450; 451. I
dismiss as moot Heyman's motions for reconsideration and