United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
ELIZABETH K. DILLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bernard Ray Richardson, proceeding pro se, brought
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging, among other things, that defendants failed to
provide him with certain medical treatment while he was
incarcerated at Wallens Ridge State Prison
(W.R.S.P.). Before the court are Richardson's
motion to change venue based on his claim that the
undersigned and several other judges of this court have a
conflict of interest (Pl.'s Mot. Transfer Venue, Dkt. No.
8), and his motion for preliminary injunctive relief. (Compl.
& Mot. Prelim. Inj. (Mot. Prelim. Inj.), Dkt. No. 1.)
Additionally, he had filed a motion to transfer the documents
in his original filing in the Eastern District of Virginia to
this court, including his motion for preliminary injunctive
relief. (Dkt. No. 5.) For the reasons stated herein, the
court will deny Richardson's motion to transfer venue and
dismiss his claim for preliminary injunctive relief and
request to transfer documents as moot.
motion to transfer venue is largely based on the disposition
of Richardson v. Dulanes, No. 7:16-cv-35 (W.D. Va.
filed Feb. 3, 2016), another civil rights action brought by
Richardson, which was dismissed by this court in February. In
that case, as here, Richardson sought a preliminary
injunction requiring W.R.S.P to provide him medical treatment
and accommodations. By order dated February 3, 2016, the
court conditionally filed Richardson's complaint,
instructed him to submit his inmate account form and trust
fund account statement within ten days of the order, and
warned him that if he failed to do so his complaint would be
dismissed. Richardson failed submit the records, and his
complaint was dismissed without prejudice on February 29,
2016. Richardson asked the court to reconsider, arguing that
the W.R.S.P. business office refused to give him the
requested records and had instead instructed him to contact
his counselor for the necessary documents. Because Richardson
provided no indication that he had contacted his counselor,
the court denied Richardson's motion for reconsideration.
the court's denial of his motion, Richardson filed a
judicial misconduct complaint against the undersigned.
Richardson, who had previously filed judicial misconduct
complaints against others, claimed that the court dismissed
his case because he had filed those complaints and because of
his race. The judicial complaint was dismissed on May 4,
2016, and Richardson's petition for review was denied on
July 6, 2016.
7, 2016, Richardson filed this action in the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and,
among other claims, again seeks a preliminary injunction
requiring Virginia Department of Corrections personnel to
provide him with medical treatment. (Mot. Prelim. Inj., Dkt.
No. 1.) The case was transferred to this court with all of
the pleadings in the original file. (See Order, Dkt.
No. 2.) Citing a conflict of interest with the undersigned
based on the previous judicial misconduct charge, Richardson
asks the court to transfer the case back to the Richmond
Division of the Eastern District. Since filing this action,
Richardson has been released from prison. (See
Pl.'s Change of Address, Dkt. No. 12; Pl.'s Request
for IFP Status, Dkt. No. 13.)
Court Will Deny Richardson's Motion To Transfer Venue
styled as a motion for change of venue, Richardson's
motion only discusses his conflicts with the judges against
whom he has filed judicial misconduct complaints. Because the
Western District of Virginia is the proper venue for his
case, see 28 U.S.C. § 1391, and because there
are other judges in the Western District with whom Richardson
has no apparent conflict, the court will treat
Richardson's motion as a request for recusal. See
Littlejohn v. Ozmint, No. 1:10-2332, 2011 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 81711, at *1-2 (D.S.C. July 26, 2011) (treating a
similar motion as a request for recusal), report and
recommendation adopted, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103677
(D.S.C. Sept. 13, 2011); see also Assa'ad Faltas v.
President of the Univ. of S.C., 291 F. App'x 534,
536 (4th Cir. 2008) (finding that the lower court correctly
denied a request for change of venue based on recusal
analysis). This motion is governed by 28 U.S.C. §
§ 455, “[a]ny . . . judge . . . of the United
States shall disqualify [herself] in any proceeding in which
[her] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28
U.S.C. § 455(a). “To preserve the integrity of the
judicial branch, ‘a judge must possess neither actual
nor apparent bias against a party.'” United
States v. Farkas, 149 F.Supp.3d 685, 690 (E.D. Va. 2016)
(quoting United States v. Cherry, 330 F.3d 658, 665
(4th Cir. 2003)), aff'd, Nos. 15-7888 &
16-6386, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 17927 (4th Cir. Oct. 4, 2016);
see Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 548
(1994); Liljeberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition
Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 858 n.7 (1988). Thus if a
reasonable observer with knowledge of all the facts and
circumstances might reasonably question a judge's
impartiality, the judge must recuse herself even if she is,
in fact, impartial. See Cheney v. United States Dist.
Court, 541 U.S. 913, 924 (2004); Microsoft Corp. v.
United States, 530 U.S. 1301, 1302 (2000) (Rehnquist,
C.J.); United States v. DeTemple, 162 F.3d 279, 286
(4th Cir. 1998); In re Beard, 811 F.2d 818, 827 (4th
Cir. 1987). However, recusal motions “cannot become a
form of brush back pitch for litigants to hurl at judges who
do not rule in their favor, ” Belue v.
Leventhal, 640 F.3d 567, 574 (4th Cir. 2011), and
recusal decisions must reflect “the need to prevent
parties from too easily obtaining the disqualification of a
judge, thereby potentially manipulating the system for
strategic reasons, perhaps to obtain a judge more to their
liking.” Id. (quoting In re United
States, 441 F.3d 44, 67 (1st Cir. 2006)).
Richardson has adduced no evidence that would lead a
reasonable person to question the court's impartiality,
recusal is improper here. In support of his claim, Richardson
cites only (1) the dismissal of his prior case and (2) the
judicial misconduct charge he filed based on that dismissal.
Although Richardson clearly disagrees strongly with the
court's decision to dismiss his former case, his
disagreement with that ruling, unaccompanied by evidence of
extra-judicial bias, is insufficient to suggest partiality.
See Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555 (noting that
“judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid
basis for a bias or partiality motion”); People
Helpers Found. v. City of Richmond, 12 F.3d 1321, 1325
(4th Cir. 1993) (“In short, the nature of the
judge's bias must be personal and not judicial.”);
In re Beard, 811 F.2d at 827 (“The alleged
bias must derive from an extra-judicial source.”). This
principle would be meaningless if Richardson could avoid it
by formalizing his disagreement as a judicial misconduct
complaint. See Belue, 640 F.3d at 574; Albright
v. Colo. Dep't of Corr., No. 06-cv-560, 2006 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 57331, at *3 (D. Colo. Aug. 3, 2006) (finding
that a judicial misconduct complaint based on disagreement
with a judge's former rulings did not require recusal).
Accordingly, the court will deny Richardson's motion.
Court Will Dismiss Richardson's Request For An Injunction
court now turns to Richardson's request for a preliminary
injunction. Richardson seeks emergency medical treatment for
his severe degenerative disc disease. (Dkt. No. 1.) The
jurisdiction of federal courts is limited to live cases or
controversies. U.S. Const. art. III, § 1. When a claim
no longer presents a viable legal issue to resolve, the claim
becomes moot. See Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486,
496 (1969). If an event occurs while a case is pending that
renders the court unable to grant a party the relief
requested on a claim, the claim must be dismissed as moot.
See Pender v. Bank of Am. Corp., 788 F.3d 354,
367-68 (4th Cir. 2015); see also Arizonans for Official
English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 68 n.22 (1997)
(“Mootness has been described as ‘the doctrine of
standing set in a time frame: The requisite personal interest
that must exist at the commencement of litigation (standing)
must continue throughout its existence
(mootness).'”) (quoting United States Parole
Comm'n v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 338, 397 (1980)).
is no longer incarcerated. (Dkt. No. 16.) Where, as here, an
inmate challenges prison policies or conditions, release or
transfer to a different location where he is no longer
subject to the challenged condition moots his claim for
injunctive relief. Incumaa v. Ozmint, 507 F.3d 281,
286-87 (4th Cir. 2007). Since Richardson has been released
from prison, the court ...