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Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

August 16, 2017

JUSTIN CASTELINO, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSE-HULMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON MOTION TO DISQUALIFY AND OBJECTION TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S RULING

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         This 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.

         No. 86). The Court, being duly advised, DENIES the motion to disqualify and OVERRULES the Plaintiff's objection for the reasons set forth below.

         Motion to Disqualify

         The 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.

         First, 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.

         Next, 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.

         Next, 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.

         Next, 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 judicial officer.

         Finally, 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 ...

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