United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION  FOR RECUSAL
OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PERCY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter comes before the court on the motion  by Charlie
Taylor for the Magistrate Judge to recuse himself from
deciding issues in this case. Mr. Taylor alleges that, during
the hearing held under Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d
179 (5th Cir. 1985), the Magistrate Judge assigned
to this case conducted merely a sham proceeding. Mr. Taylor
states that the Magistrate Judge's law clerk asked him,
"If your cholesterol is good, why do you need a medical
diet?" The law clerk also asked about Mr. Taylor's
confiscated legal materials. Mr. Taylor also noted that
counsel for the defendants was not present at the hearing -
and that defense counsel had not provided Taylor a copy of
his medical records. Finally, Mr. Taylor argues that the
hearing was clandestine in nature (Mr. Taylor attended from
the Mississippi State Penitentiary via videoconference), such
that "the general public, press, and family members
could not attend." This, according to Mr. Taylor,
created "[a] perfect setting for impropriety and
judicial bribery." According to Mr. Taylor, this
sequence of events leads to the conclusion that "the
alleged [law clerk] of [the Magistrate Judge] was actually
counsel for the defendant pretending to be the [law
clerk]." For these reasons, Mr. Taylor argues that the
Magistrate Judge should recuse himself from handling this
statutes for deciding whether recusal is appropriate for a
federal judge are 28 U.S.C.A. § 455, and 28 U.S.C.
§ 144, which use the same standard, namely,
'"[W]hether a reasonable person with knowledge of
all the facts would conclude that the judge's
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.'"
United States v. Hernandez, 109 F.3d 1450, 1453
(9th Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v.
Studley, 783 F.2d 934, 939 (9th Cir. 1986)).
However, "the reasonable person standard in the recusal
context contemplates a 'well-informed, thoughtful and
objective observer, rather than the hypersensitive, cynical,
and suspicious person.'" Trevino v.
Johnson, 168 F.3d 173, 179 (5th Cir. 1999)
(internal citations omitted). In addition, "[A] motion
for disqualification ordinarily may not be predicated on the
judge's rulings in the instant case . . . ."
Phillips v. Joint Legislative Committee on Performance
& Expenditure Review, 637 F.2d 1014, 1020
(5th Cir.1981). A judge's adverse ruling, even
when later reversed or vacated on appeal, does not by itself
constitute grounds for recusal. Garcia v. Woman's
Hospital of Texas, 143 F.3d 227 (5th Cir.
1998). Adverse judicial rulings will only support a claim of
bias if they reveal an opinion based on an extrajudicial
source - or if they demonstrate such a high degree of
animosity as to make fair judgment impossible. Litekyv.
United States, 510U.S. 540, 555, 114 S.Ct. 1147, 127
L.Ed.2d 474 (1994).
Taylor's Litigation History
Taylor has been filing prisoner cases in this court for
nearly 20 years, as evidenced by the August 25, 1998,
transcript of the Spears hearing in Taylor v.
Bryan, 1:98CV222-S-D, which he attached as an exhibit to
the instant motion. Few of his cases had merit, and, as set
forth in the court's memorandum opinion and judgment in
the present case, Mr. Taylor has been sanctioned by this
court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme
Court for meritless and frivolous filings. The sanction in
this court includes a requirement that he receive permission
from the court before proceeding with a new case. Under these
circumstances, the court is free to consider Mr. Taylor's
litigation history when weighing whether to let him proceed
with new litigation.
Posture of the Present Case
case, the court decided to hear more about Mr. Taylor's
claims regarding denial of medical care. As such, the
Presiding Judge dismissed all of Mr. Taylor's claims,
except denial of medical care, and set the case for
a Spears hearing - the very purpose of which is to
give pro se plaintiffs (who, as a group, have a
difficult time articulating their claims) a chance to flesh
out those claims. See, generally, Spears v.
McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985).
Defense counsel need not be present at a Spears
hearing. Id. Further, the medical records mentioned
in the order setting the Spears hearing are for the
court's benefit, not the plaintiffs. A Spears
hearing is not an evidentiary hearing; no
evidence is entered. Instead, the plaintiffs
testimony merely fleshes out his allegations -and
thus, by its nature, that testimony becomes part of the
complaint. As such, the Magistrate Judge presiding over a
Spears hearing asks a series of questions designed
to add detail to the plaintiffs allegations and bring his
legal claims into sharper focus. Defense counsel sometimes
asks the plaintiff questions, with the same goal. The parties
and the court need to know the contours of pro se
prisoner plaintiffs allegations to proceed in an orderly
fashion with the case. Indeed, all of this information - and
more - is covered in a detailed explanation of
Spears hearings mailed to every inmate who files a
case in this court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Taylor
has received this explanation many times and has attended
multiple Spears hearings. The court is confident
that he is familiar with the process.
Regarding the Magistrate Judge
these parameters in mind, it does not matter whether the
Magistrate Judge, his law clerk (on his behalf and with his
permission), or defense counsel asked the plaintiff questions
during the hearing. The questions were designed to sharpen
Mr. Taylor's allegations. His answers made those
allegations clearer and assisted the court with the orderly
administration of the case. The Spears hearing
proceeded as any other. Further, despite Mr. Taylor's
assertions to the contrary, his Spears hearing was a
public one - held at the federal courthouse in Oxford,
Mississippi. Though Mr. Taylor attended by video
conference from the Mississippi State Penitentiary, notice of
the hearing was available on the court's public docket,
and anyone who wished to attend the hearing in Oxford could
have done so. For these reasons, Mr. Taylor's motion 
to recuse is without merit and is DENIED.