The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court
In this action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant failed to pay for natural gas extracted from their wells. Presently at bar are Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiffs' Cross Motion for Recusal, Summary Judgment, and other relief.*fn1 For the reasons below, Defendant's motion is granted and Plaintiffs' motions are denied.
For the purposes of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the following facts alleged in the complaint are accepted as true.
On August 21, 1984, Robert G. Fussell entered into a lease agreement ("1984 Lease") with James F. Lapp that allowed Lapp to use Fussell's property "for the purposes of exploring, drilling and operating for, producing, storing, removing and marketing oil and gas, or either of them, and/or their constituents." (1984 Lease, Docket No. 1, ¶ 1).*fn2 The 1984 Lease, among other things, provided that Lapp would pay Fussell the field market price for one-eighth of the gas (not including storage gas) produced and marketed from the premises. (1984 Lease, ¶ 3). The 1984 Lease also gave either party the right of whole or partial assignment. (1984 Lease, ¶ 11).
On December 6, 1996, Lapp assigned the 1984 Lease to YoRel Energy Corporation. (Compl., Docket No. 1, Exhibit B).*fn3 YoRel Energy Corporation then assigned it to Defendant Fathers of Our Lady of Mercy on December 12, 1996. (Compl., Exhibit C). YoRel notified Fussel of this assignment on January 3, 1997. (Compl., Ex. D). One week later, Fussell died.
Upon Fussell's death, his interest in the 1984 Lease, along with ownership of the land underlying the 1984 Lease, passed to his son, Plaintiff E. Robert Fussell. (Compl., ¶ 5). On February 16, 2006, E. Robert Fussell conveyed the 1984 Lease and the land subject to the lease to Plaintiff Poplar Lane Farm, LLC. (Compl., ¶ 7).
The 1984 Lease pertains to three gas wells-"Fussell 1", "Fussell 2", and "Page 4." (Compl., ¶¶ 13, 14). In 1997, 2001, and 2004, no gas was extracted from these wells. (Compl., Ex. G). Gas was extracted from the wells in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006. (Compl., Ex. G).
Plaintiffs, believing payment was due, exchanged letters with Defendant and their counsel. (Compl., Ex. E, G, H, I, J). Those exchanges were not fruitful, resulting in Plaintiffs' filing suit in Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Genesee, on June 4, 2008. Defendant removed the case to this Court on July 8, 2008.
III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
A. Plaintiffs' Motion for Recusal
Plaintiffs moved for this Court's recusal on August 21, 2008, arguing that "it would be highly inappropriate for a member of the Roman Catholic faith to sit in judgment in this case," presumably because Defendant is an Order of Catholic priests. (Pls.' Affirmation in Supp. of Cross-Mot. for Recusal, Docket No. 7, ¶ 3). Recusal of federal judges is governed by 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455 and is required when judges hold a bias or prejudice or their impartiality may reasonably be questioned. Time and again, however, courts have addressed the question of whether intrinsic characteristics of a judge - such as religion, race, ethnicity, or gender - are alone enough to inject bias, prejudice, or the appearance of impartiality when that characteristic is also shared by a party appearing before that court. Resoundingly, the answer is that recusal is not warranted. See United States v. El-Gabrowny, 844 F.Supp. 955 (S.D.N.Y. 1994) (religion); Hoatson v. New York Archdiocese, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87877 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (religion); Idaho v. Freeman, 507 F.Supp. 706 (D. Idaho 1981) (religion); Macdraw, Inc. v. CIT Group Equipment Financing, Inc., 994 F.Supp. 447 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (race); Blank v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 418 F.Supp. 1 (S.D.N.Y. ...