United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY ON MOTION TO DISQUALIFY AND OBJECTION TO
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RULING
William T. Lawrence, Judge
cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion to
Disqualify the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 78) and the
Plaintiff's objection to one of the Magistrate
Judge's orders (Dkt.
86). The Court, being duly advised, DENIES
the motion to disqualify and OVERRULES the
Plaintiff's objection for the reasons set forth below.
Plaintiff moves to disqualify Magistrate Judge Mark J.
Dinsmore from this case because he asserts that his
“impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
Dkt. No. 78 at 1. The Plaintiff's reasons for questioning
Magistrate Judge Dinsmore's impartiality are a bit murky,
but the Court will attempt to address them.
the Plaintiff suggests that because Magistrate Judge Dinsmore
has permitted discovery to take place in this case, when
discovery was not conducted prior to a preliminary injunction
hearing conducted by the undersigned in another, wholly
unrelated case, Magistrate Judge Dinsmore has demonstrated a
“disregard of prior case law” to the
Plaintiff's detriment. This is nonsensical. “A
district court decision does not have precedential effect,
” Wirtz v. City of South Bend, 669
F.3d 860, 863 (7th Cir. 2012), and therefore need not be
followed in any future case. And in any case, the undersigned
did not make any ruling regarding
the propriety of discovery in the case referred to by the
Plaintiff; the ruling in that case simply notes that no
discovery was conducted. That was appropriate under the
circumstances of that case. Whether it would be appropriate
in this case is a completely separate inquiry. Magistrate
Judge Dinsmore did not improperly “disregard” the
prior case; there was no reason for him to consider what
occurred in the earlier case at all.
the Plaintiff seems to believe that Magistrate Judge Dinsmore
has failed to follow Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
26(b)'s requirement that discovery must be proportional
to the needs of the case. However, he fails to articulate any
way in which his deposition or any other discovery that
Magistrate Judge Dinsmore has ordered him to provide at this
point is out of proportion to the needs of the case.
the Plaintiff appears to object to the fact that Magistrate
Judge Dinsmore has made certain rulings regarding discovery
deadlines when no motion has been made in writing or
“during a hearing or trial” as required by
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7(b)(1)(A). Throughout this
case, Magistrate Judge Dinsmore has been following the
standard practice of this district of attempting to resolve
discovery-related issues informally by holding status
conferences with counsel before discovery motions are filed.
This practice is incorporated into the case management plan
in this case under paragraph IV: “If the required
conference under Local Rule 37-1 does not resolve discovery
issues that may arise, the parties will request a telephonic
status conference prior to filing any disputed motion to
compel or for a protective order.” This requirement is
expressly permitted by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
16(b)(3)(B)(v) (court may “direct that before moving
for an order relating to discovery, the movant must request a
conference with the court”). In other words, the rules
specifically contemplate that issues relating to discovery
may be resolved during “a conference with the
court” rather than by motion, and, indeed, contemplate
that a court might prefer such resolutions where possible.
Magistrate Judge Dinsmore did nothing improper when he
discussed and resolved discovery-related issues during status
conferences with counsel.
the Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge Dinsmore's
ruling on a motion for extension of time.
“‘[J]udicial rulings alone almost never
constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality
motion.” Antia-Perea v. Holder, 768 F.3d 647,
661 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Liteky v. United
States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994)). In this case, the
Plaintiff is complaining that Magistrate Judge Dinsmore
granted an agreed motion for enlargement of time.
The motion is referred to as “agreed” in its
title, and paragraph 7 of the motion states: “The
undersigned has spoken with [Plaintiff's] counsel, and he
does not object to this motion.” Dkt. No. 40. The
Plaintiff does not dispute this representation. It is
difficult, to say the least, to understand how the granting
of an agreed motion could ever constitute bias by a
the Plaintiff raises the issue of the Defendant's desire
to depose the Plaintiff for additional time despite having
already spent 9.5 hours over two days deposing him.
Specifically, he notes the following:
During a telephonic conference on July 19, 2017 Magistrate
Judge Dinsmore appeared to the Plaintiff's counsel to be
angry that Plaintiff would insist that the Defendant
conformed [sic] to Rule 30(d) and warned that pursuing the
Motion to Terminate would necessarily set back the hearing
sechuled [sic] for August 23, 2017 on Plaintiff's pending
Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief.
Dkt. No. 79 at 3. The Court has reviewed the recording of the
July 19th telephonic conference and finds nothing improper
about either the tone or substance of Magistrate Judge
Dinsmore's statements during it. Magistrate Judge
Dinsmore's minute entry following that conference
accurately portrays the discussion between him and counsel:
Plaintiff's deposition, which had first been requested by
Defendant in April, 2017, finally commenced on July 7, 2017.
Counsel for Plaintiff explained to the Court that
Plaintiff's learning disability requires him to take long
pauses between being asked a question and answering that
question, the result of which is that, despite several hours
of Plaintiff's deposition, very little information has
actually been conveyed. Despite Plaintiff's
acknowledgement and request for accommodation in ...