United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
MORALES HOWARD UNITED DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion
to Recuse with Memorandum of Law (Doc. 87; Motion) filed on
October 22, 2019. In the Motion, Plaintiff requests that the
undersigned recuse herself from presiding over this case
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144 and § 455. See
generally Motion. On November 5, 2019, Defendants Pulse
Evolution Corporation, Evolution AI Corporation, John Textor,
Jordan Fiksenbaum and Frank Patterson filed a response in
opposition to the Motion. See Pulse Defendants'
Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Recuse
(Doc. 91; Response). After obtaining an extension of time,
see Endorsed Order (Doc. 90), Defendants Gregory
Centineo, Agnes King, John King and Julie Natale filed a
response in opposition to the Motion on November 12, 2019.
See Defendants Centineo, Natale, Agnes King and John
King's Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion
to Recuse (Doc. 92).
to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), a district judge must recuse
herself “in any proceeding in which [her] impartiality
might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. §
455(a). The standard applied under § 455(a) is
“‘whether an objective, fully informed lay
observer would entertain significant doubt about the
judge's impartiality.'” See Thomas v.
Tenneco Packaging Co., Inc., 293 F.3d 1306, 1329 (11th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Christo v. Padgett, 223 F.3d
1324, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000)). As a general rule,
“‘bias sufficient to disqualify a judge must stem
from extrajudicial sources.'” Id. (quoting
Hamm v. Bd. of Regents, 708 F.2d 647, 651 (11th Cir.
1983)). “The exception to this rule is ‘when a
judge's remarks in a judicial context demonstrate such
pervasive bias and prejudice that it constitutes bias against
a party.'” Id. (quoting Hamm, 708
F.2d at 651).
to warrant recusal under § 144, “‘the moving
party must allege facts that would convince a reasonable
person that bias actually exists.'” See
Stringer v. Doe, 503 Fed.Appx. 888, 890 (11th Cir. 2013)
(quoting Christo, 223 F.3d at 1333). Notably, the
statute requires a movant to provide a “sufficient
affidavit” which “shall state the facts and the
reasons for the belief that bias or prejudice exists . . .
.” See 28 U.S.C. § 144. To be legally
sufficient, the affidavit must contain: (1) facts that are
“material and stated with particularity, ” (2)
facts that if true, “would convince a reasonable person
that a bias exists, ” and (3) facts that “show
the bias is personal, as opposed to judicial, in
nature.” See United States v. Serrano, 607
F.2d 1145, 1150 (5th Cir. 1979); see also United States
v. Sykes, 7 F.3d 1331, 1339 (7th Cir. 1993)
(“[T]he facts averred must be sufficiently definite and
particular to convince a reasonable person that bias exists;
simple conclusions, opinions, or rumors are
insufficient.”). In addition, the affidavit
“shall be accompanied by a certificate of counsel of
record stating that it is made in good faith.” 28
U.S.C. § 144.
Motion, Plaintiff contends that the Court must be biased
against him based on an anonymous internet post about the
undersigned, the Court's strong encouragement that
Plaintiff obtain legal counsel to represent him in this
action, and Plaintiff's disagreement with the Court's
handling of the case. The undersigned has fully reviewed and
considered the Motion and finds that there is no reason for
the undersigned to recuse herself in this case. To the extent
Plaintiff relies on an anonymous internet posting as support
for his claim of bias, this is plainly insufficient. See
United States v. Greenough, 782 F.2d 1556, 1558-59 (11th
Cir. 1986) (affirming district court's denial of a motion
to recuse premised on unsupported newspaper reports); Del
Fuoco v. O'Neill, No. 8:09-cv-1262-T-27MAP, 2010 WL
454930, at *4 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 9, 2010) (“Anonymous
blogs do not reflect a genuine lack of public confidence such
that the court's impartiality might reasonably be
questioned under § 455.”). As the Eleventh Circuit
instructed in Greenough, “a charge of
partiality must be supported by facts, ” and “a
judge considering whether to disqualify [herself] must ignore
rumors, innuendos, and erroneous information published as
fact . . . .” See Greenough, 782 F.2d at 1558
(internal quotation omitted). As such, Plaintiff's
reliance on an anonymous internet posting as evidence of the
undersigned's improper bias is unavailing.
addition, the Court's remarks during the July 24, 2019
hearing encouraging Plaintiff to obtain legal representation
do not demonstrate any improper prejudice against Plaintiff,
much less the type of “pervasive bias and
prejudice” that could warrant recusal. See
Thomas, 293 F.3d at 1329-30; see also Christo,
223 F.3d at 1333-34. Indeed, “[a]dvising a pro
se litigant that he may be at a disadvantage and that it
might be prudent to obtain counsel is a function normally
performed by a judge.” See Jarallah v.
Simmons, No. 1:04-CV-3636-JEC, 2006 WL 8431953, at *5
(N.D.Ga. Jan. 12, 2006); see also, e.g.,
Jerome v. Barcelo Crestline, Inc., No.
1:07-cv-0447-WSD, 2008 WL 11297400, at *2 n.4 (N.D.Ga. Apr.
4, 2008) (“strongly” encouraging pro se plaintiff
to obtain counsel); Yates v. Ryder Truck Rentals,
No. 8:07-cv-1144-T-23MAP, 2007 WL 2993967, at *1 n.3 (M.D.
Fla. Oct. 11, 2007) (urging pro se plaintiff to obtain the
assistance of counsel); Schebel v. Charlotte Cnty.,
833 F.Supp. 889, 890 (M.D. Fla. 1993)
(“strenuously” encouraging pro se plaintiff to
obtain legal counsel). Similarly, Plaintiff's displeasure
with the Court's rulings provides no basis for recusal.
See Stringer, 503 Fed.Appx. at 890 (“Judicial
rulings standing alone rarely constitute a valid basis for a
bias or partiality motion.”); McWhorter v. City of
Birmingham, 906 F.2d 674, 678-79 (11th Cir. 1990);
Ivey v. Snow, Civil Action No. 1:05-CV-1150-JOF,
2007 WL 1810213, at *2 (N.D.Ga. June 21, 2007).
such, the undersigned is obligated to continue to preside
over this matter. See Greenough, 782 F.2d at 1558
(“[A] judge, having been assigned to a case, should not
recuse [herself] on unsupported, irrational, or highly
tenuous speculation.”); Lawal v. Winners Int'l
Rests. Co. Operations, Inc., No. 1:04-CV-0913-WSD, 2006
WL 898180, at *4 (N.D.Ga. Apr. 6, 2006) ("'A trial
judge has as much obligation not to recuse [her]self when
there is no reason to do so as [s]he does to recuse [her]self
when the converse is true.'"); United States v.
Malmsberry, 222 F.Supp.2d 1345, 1349 (M.D. Fla. 2002)
(“[A] judge has as strong a duty to sit when there is
no legitimate reason to recuse as [s]he does to recuse when
the law and facts require.”). In light of the
foregoing, it is
Motion to Recuse with Memorandum of Law (Doc. 87) is
 In Bonner v. City of
Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en
banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all
the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior
to the close of business on September 30, 1981.
 Although Plaintiff's Motion is
accompanied by an affidavit, see Affidavit of
Plaintiff Scott Meide in Support of Motion to Recuse (Doc.
87-1), the affidavit does not contain a certificate of good
faith. The Court could deny Plaintiff's request for
relief under § 144 on this basis alone. See Guthrie
v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg. NA, Civil Action No.
1:13-CV-4226-RWS, 2015 WL 1401660, at *2 (N.D.Ga. Mar. 26,
2015) (“In light of the mandatory and automatic nature
of recusal under the statute, its potential for abuse, and
the availability of other statutory mechanisms pursuant to
which an unrepresented litigant may seek recusal of a federal
judge, the absence of such a certificate has proven fatal to
even the § 144 motions of pro se
litigants.”) (collecting cases). Indeed, some courts
have found that § 144 is not available to pro se
litigants as an avenue for recusal because they are unable to
submit a certificate from “counsel of record.”
See, e.g., Williams v. N.Y.C. Hous.
Auth., 287 F.Supp.2d 247, 249 (S.D.N.Y. 2003); see
also Morrison v. United States, 432 F.2d 1227, 1229 (5th
Cir. 1970) ...