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Baxter v. Washburn

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

June 19, 2018




         Before the Court are the following motions of Petitioner Timothy Aaron Baxter: (1) Motion for Recusal (ECF No. 6)-as well as a Motion to Render Decision regarding the recusal Motion (ECF No. 16); (2) Motion for Conditional Release Pending Federal Habeas Corpus Review (ECF No. 7); (3) Motion to Set Evidentiary Hearing (ECF No. 8); (4) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9); (5) Motion for Judicial Estoppel (ECF No. 10); (6) Motion for Entry of Default by Clerk of Court (ECF No. 15); and (7) Motion for Rule Enforcement (ECF No. 17). These motions all arise from Baxter's underlying pro se Petition (ECF No. 1) for habeas corpus relief (the “Petition”). The Court addresses each Motion below.

         For the reasons that follow, Petitioner's Motion to Render Decision on the recusal Motion is GRANTED, but the Motions for Recusal, Conditional Release, Partial Summary Judgment, Entry of Default, Judicial Estoppel, Evidentiary Hearing, and Rule Enforcement are hereby DENIED. Further, Respondent Russell Washburn is DIRECTED to file a response to the allegations set forth in the Petition in accordance with the instructions below.


         In October 2017, Petitioner filed his Petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] The Petition sets forth the following challenges to Baxter's conviction for failure to appear on an aggravated assault charge:

1. “The evidence underlying Baxter's conviction for failure to appear fails to satisfy the sufficiency standard of Jackson v. Virginia, 1979.”[2] Pet. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, at 5, Oct. 23, 2017, ECF No. 1.
2. “Pervasive Government misconduct, secretive, selective, vindictive, and Baxter was denied a preliminary hearing preventing exercise of 4th Amendment violation.”[3] Id. at 6.
3. “State trial court abused its discretion by allowing admission of hearsay evidence violating Crawford v. Washington, supra.”[4] Id. at 8.
4. “Baxter's trial counsel was ineffective at trial and on direct appeal and Baxter's post-conviction counsel was ineffective, Martinez v. Ryan.”[5] Id. at 10.


         I. Motions for Recusal and to Render Decision

         On February 26, 2018, Petitioner filed a Motion for Recusal, requesting that the undersigned judge be recused from this case. In support, he cites “asserted claims of judicial bias and conflict of interest in” his 2010 civil rights case, over which the undersigned presided.[6] Mot. for Recusal, at 1, Feb. 26, 2018, ECF No. 6. He contends that recusal is proper because the civil rights case “is still pending at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.” Id. On April 30, 2018, Baxter filed a Motion to Render Decision, in which he requests that the Court rule on his recusal Motion.

         Bias sufficient to justify recusal must be personal, arising out of the judge's background, and not based on the judge's interpretation of the law. Taylor Acquisitions, L.L.C. v. City of Taylor, 313 Fed.Appx. 826, 838 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing United States v. Grinnell Corp., 384 U.S. 563, 583 (1966); Ullmo ex rel. Ullmo v. Gilmour Acad., 273 F.3d 671, 681 (6th Cir. 2001)). “[A] judge is presumed to be impartial, and the party seeking disqualification bears the substantial burden of proving otherwise.” Scott v. Metro. Health Corp., 234 Fed.Appx. 341, 352 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Dention, 434 F.3d 1104, 1111 (8th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Petitioner here has not met his burden of proving personal bias. He does not identify specific facts to support the conclusory allegation of “judicial bias and conflict of interest.” Additionally, the mere fact that the undersigned participated in Petitioner's civil rights case does not support a demand for recusal. See Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994) (“[O]pinions formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or events occurring in the course of . . . prior proceedings, do not constitute a basis for a bias or partiality motion unless they display a deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.”). Finally, there is no prejudice to Petitioner resulting from the pendency of the appeal in his civil rights case; the appeal was dismissed by the Sixth Circuit for want of prosecution five months before Baxter filed his recusal motion. Baxter v. ...

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