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Joan E. Clemmons, M.D v. Commissioner of Social Security

December 8, 2011

JOAN E. CLEMMONS, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matsumoto, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

On March 3, 2011, pro se plaintiff Joan E. Clemmons ("plaintiff") commenced an action against the Commissioner of Social Security ("defendant"), alleging that defendant unlawfully terminated her monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Presently before the court is plaintiff's motion for this court to recuse itself from the instant action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455(a)--(b)(1). (See generally, ECF. No. 26, Motion Pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455 to Disqualify the Judge.) Plaintiff's motion is denied for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

I.Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff alleges that this court should recuse itself from presiding over the instant action because it has "shown a consistent and debilitating prejudice against the plaintiff and in favor of the defendant." (See ECF No. 26, Affidavit of Joan Clemmons ("Pl.'s Aff.") ¶ 1.) Plaintiff bases her motion for this court's disqualification on several allegations, each of which purportedly demonstrates this court's "blatant preferential treatment of plaintiff's adversary" and "makes it abundantly clear that justice cannot be obtained by plaintiff in this courtroom." (Id. ¶ 4.) The court will summarize and then address each allegation in turn.

A.Alleged Grant of Defendant's "Ex Parte" Requests

Plaintiff alleges that the court has "[f]rom day one . . . shown a consistent and debilitating prejudice against the plaintiff and in favor of the defendant" by repeatedly granting defendant's "ex parte" requests. (Id. ¶¶ 1--2; ECF No. 26, Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion Pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 144 and 455 to Disqualify the Judge ("Pl.'s Mem.") at 3--4.) Plaintiff cites several examples to support her claim.

First, on September 20, 2011, the court granted defendant's motion for a thirty-day extension to file a reply related to defendant's motion to dismiss upon defendant's representation that such an extension would permit defendant to "explore the possibility of plaintiff's voluntary withdrawal of this action." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 1--2; Pl.'s Mem. at 3-4; ECF No. 22, Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time to File Response/Reply).

Second, plaintiff claims that the court erred "[i]n an apparent snap judgment" by issuing its August 2, 2011 order, permitting defendant to serve on plaintiff a motion to dismiss "after [defendant] had defaulted." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff claims that the court "without question and without input from the plaintiff . . . accepted at face value the defendant attorney's [sic] account of events" and "speculated rather than asked the plaintiff about what happened." (Pl.'s Mem. at 3.)

Third, plaintiff contends that the court issued orders favorable to the defendant "[e]ven before notice of the defendant's attorney[']s appearance in the action" and "even before the defendant's answer had been served and the issue joined." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 3.) Specifically, plaintiff complains that the court's April 12, 2011 briefing schedule erroneously directed defendant to "obtain and serve upon plaintiff the administrative record of the proceedings, along with his answer, within ninety days of commencement of this action," instead of sixty days, which plaintiff asserts is applicable pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(3).*fn1 (Id.) Consequently, plaintiff also charges this court with "inefficient management of the business of the court." (Pl.'s Mem. at 4--5.)

B.Mode of Service of Papers on Plaintiff

Plaintiff further alleges that the court has shown "disdain for" and "deprecation of" the plaintiff by ordering defendant to serve her with copies of the court's orders. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Mem. at 5.) According to plaintiff, the court "subordinates plaintiff's position to [defendant's position]," "lowers [plaintiff's] status," and treats her as a criminal by "channeling . . . the orders of the court to plaintiff through [defendant], rather than through the Clerk of the Court." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 4.)

C.Initial Assignment of Case to Central Islip

When plaintiff filed her complaint, it was assigned to the Central Islip Division of the Eastern District of New York, apparently upon the understanding that the underlying events took place in Suffolk County. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 6; ECF No. 26, Exhibit S at 1.) When plaintiff informed the Central Islip Division by letter that the case should be heard in the Brooklyn Division because the underlying events occurred in Nassau County, the case was transferred back to Brooklyn. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 6; ECF No. 26, Exhibit S at 1.) Plaintiff attributes the administrative error to this court and alleges that the initial transfer shows that "the judge was responding to something other than what was in the Complaint; some remembrance associated with negative connotations that had more to do with the plaintiff than with the Complaint," and consequently, that this court must have been influenced by some extra-judicial source. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Mem. at 6.)

D.Other Allegations

Plaintiff also claims that the court has "saddl[ed] plaintiff with unnecessary demands" and "place[d] the plaintiff at a further disadvantage" relative to the defendant by denying plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel yet "insist[ing] on fully briefed motions from a pro se litigant." (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 5; Pl.'s Mem. at 6.) Moreover, plaintiff claims that by requiring her to submit her moving papers to defendant, then "having [defendant] file them with the court in one disgorgement, in essence sequestering them from public view until finality," the court "contradicts the concept of the court as an open forum." (Pl.'s Mem. at 6.)

Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion, arguing that plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the court is biased or prejudiced because of an extra-judicial source or that the court's impartiality might reasonably be questioned. (See ECF No. 33, Reply Memorandum of Law in Further Support of the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and In Opposition to Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment Dated ...


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