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Wallace v. Baylouny

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 17, 2016

JOHN BAYLOUNY, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff Stephen P. Wallace’s three motions: (1) motion to vacate the Court’s March 29, 2016 order granting his motion to stay; (2) motion to stay the case; and (3) motion to disqualify the undersigned Judge from presiding over this case. (Pl.’s Vacate Mot. [Dkt. 17].) The Court exercises its authority under Local Civil Rule 7(J) to rule upon the motions without oral argument. For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motions.

         I. Background

         In January 2016, pro se Plaintiff Stephen P. Wallace (“Wallace”) filed a three-page complaint and accompanying exhibits alleging tortious interference with contract and “conspiracy to circumvent plaintiffs [sic] beneficial interest.” (Compl. [Dkt. 1].) Construing the complaint liberally, [1] Wallace alleges that in 2012 he was authorized to procure investors for Vision Technologies, Inc. If he was successful, Vision Technologies agreed to pay Wallace and another agent “origination fees” of three percent each of any investments they procured for Vision Technologies. Wallace contends that he is entitled to such a fee for an investment from Virginia-based defense contractor DRS Technologies that he originated.

         Wallace names three DRS employees as Defendants (collectively “Defendants”). He alleges Defendants and Vision Technologies employees “covertly conspired in collusion to ‘Tortuously Interfere & Circumvent’ PLAINTIFFS ‘Rights Granted Under the CONTRACT’, made Public & Acquiesced to All Parties.” (Compl. ¶ 6 (all errors and formatting contained in original).)

         On February 22, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. (Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. 5].) On March 9, 2016, Wallace filed a two page memorandum and several exhibits in opposition to the motion to dismiss. (Pl.’s Mem. in Opp’n [Dkt. 12].) Defendants replied on March 14, 2016. (Defs.’ Reply [Dkt. 13].)

         On March 25, 2016, Wallace moved for a sixty day stay to permit him time to retain counsel. (Pl.’s Stay Mot. [Dkt. 15].) Wallace stated that a law firm had requested forty-five days to review his case to determine whether the firm would represent Wallace. (Id. ¶ 2.) This Court granted the motion, staying the pending motion to dismiss and scheduling a status conference on May 12, 2016.

         The Court explained its reasoning for granting the stay in a written Order (“Order” or “Stay Order”). (See Stay Order [Dkt. 16].) The Order began by noting facts that weighed against granting a stay. First, the Court expressed its concern that Wallace had not diligently pursued representation, as the exhibits attached to Wallace’s Complaint disclosed that he became aware of the circumstances underlying his claim as early as October 2012. (See Compl. Exs. [Dkt. 1-1] at 9.) Other exhibits disclosed that Wallace refused at least two offers of representation because the attorneys would not agree to contingency fee or pro bono representation. (See Compl. Exs. at 20-27; Pl.’s Mem. in Opp’n ¶ 7(b).) Second, the Court cited three opinions from Wallace’s prior pro se cases in which he was reprimanded for “abusive litigious behavior and dilatory tactics.” (Stay Order at 2.) The Court balanced those facts with the reasons for granting the stay, including the recent request of a law firm for forty-five days to review the case, and the interest in facilitating Wallace’s effort to clearly present his case to the Court so as to achieve a just resolution. (Id. at 2-3.) With those factors in mind, the Court granted Wallace’s stay until May 12, 2016, to allow Wallace time to retain counsel. (Id.) The Court ordered parties to appear for a status conference on that date. (Id.)

         Approximately five weeks after the Court entered its Order and one week before the scheduled status conference, Wallace filed the present motions to disqualify the undersigned from presiding over this case, to vacate the stay order, and to stay the case. Wallace failed to appear at the May 12, 2016 status conference.[2] The Court will deny Wallace’s motions and return this case to active status.

         II. Analysis

         The Court will first address Wallace’s motion to disqualify, then the motion to vacate, followed by the motion to stay. As described below, the Court will deny each motion.

         A. Motion to Disqualify

         Wallace argues that the Court’s Order granting his motion to stay demonstrates the need for disqualification under 28 U.S.C. § 455 for the following three reasons: (1) the Court “intentionally misrepresents” facts within the Order; (2) the Court cited three prior cases sanctioning or enjoining Wallace due to his pro se filings; and (3) the Court is part of a “silent coalition” of judges that are adverse to Wallace. As described below, none of those arguments justifies disqualification.

         A federal judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned, ” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), or where “he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings, ” § 455(b)(1). Disqualification is required if a reasonable factual basis exists for doubting a judge’s impartiality. People Helpers Found., Inc. v. City of Richmond, 12 F.3d 1321, 1325 (4th Cir. 1993). To require disqualification, the judge’s alleged bias or prejudice generally must “result in an opinion on the merits [of a case] on some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in the case.” Belue v. Leventhal, 640 F.3d 567, 573 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 545 n.1 (1994)). Thus, “judicial rulings and ‘opinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or prior proceedings’ almost ‘never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion.’” Id. (quoting Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555). Similarly, “judicial remarks that are ‘critical or disapproving of, or even hostile to, counsel, the parties, or their cases, ordinarily do not support a bias or partiality challenge.’” Id. (quoting Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555). Ultimately a ...

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