Reichle v. U.S. Internal Revenue Service
Disqualification is required when "an objective, disinterested observer fully informed of the underlying facts [would] entertain significant doubt that justice would be done absent recusal," pursuant to U.S. v. Carlton, a 2008 decision of the 2nd Circuit. Allegedly, the Internal Revenue Service levied money from the plaintiffs' bank accounts. The pro se plaintiffs sued the Internal Revenue Service and alleged it did not provide adequate notice, it falsified tax obligations and it levied an amount in excess of statute. In August 2012, the District Court, Chatigny, J., sent the plaintiffs' suit to Magistrate Judge Donna Martinez for pre-trial. The plaintiffs objected that they did not consent and that the referral to a magistrate judge violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(a) and 28 United States Code §636. The District Court overruled the plaintiffs' objection. The plaintiffs moved to recuse District Judge Robert Chatigny and claimed that Judge Chatigny unlawfully coerced them into accepting the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. §455(a) provides, "Any justice, judge or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." The basis of the plaintiffs' request to recuse appears to be that Judge Chatigny decided to refer the plaintiff's suit to Magistrate Judge Martinez. Absent a high degree of antagonism, judicial decisions rarely provide a valid basis for a motion to recuse a judge. "My referral of the case to Judge Martinez," wrote Judge Chatigny, "does not reflect any antagonism toward the plaintiffs." Referrals are the norm, and Judge Chatigny denied the plaintiffs' motion to recuse. The plaintiffs also argued that the referral to a magistrate was not valid, absent their consent. Consent is not required for a magistrate to preside over nondispositive, pretrial matters, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(A) and Rule 72(a). The 120-day period in which to serve the complaint expired, and Judge Martinez previously warned the plaintiffs that failure to serve the complaint would result in dismissal. Judge Chatigny dismissed the complaint for failure to prosecute, pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 4(m).