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Veenstra v. University of Idaho Law School

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 24, 2019

UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO LAW SCHOOL, sued in its official capacity; CHUCK STABEN, President, sued in his personal and professional capacities; UNNAMED FACTULY MEMBERS, sued in their personal and professional capacities; IDAHO STATE BAR, sued in its official capacity; TRUDY HANSON FOUSER, governing member; TIM GRESBACK, governing member; MICHELLE R. POINTS, governing member; PAUL B. RIPPLE, governing member; DENNIS S. VORHEES, governing member; and NUMEROUS ATTORNEYS, all unnamed licensed by the Idaho State Bar, sued in their personal and professional capacities who served as officers of the court between 06/24/16 and 10/24/19, Defendants.



         On June 17, 2019, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s Complaint in this civil rights case, as frivolous and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and entered judgment against Plaintiff. (Dkt. 12, 13.) Plaintiff has now filed a motion for reconsideration. (Dkt. 15.) He has also filed a Motion for Leave to Request Chief Judge David C. Nye to Intervene, which the Court construes as a request for disqualification of the undersigned judge. (Dkt. 18.)

         1. Request for Disqualification

         Plaintiff has not shown that 28 U.S.C. §§ 144[1] or 455[2], governing disqualification of judges, or any case interpreting those sections, applies in this case. Disqualification is not required where only vague allegations of bias and prejudice are asserted, or where those allegations arise from the adjudication of claims or cases by the court during the course of litigation. Such alleged errors are “the basis for appeal, not recusal.” Focus Media, Inc. v. Nat’l Broadcasting Co. (In re Focus Media, Inc.), 378 F.3d 916, 930 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Further, Plaintiff’s allegation that the undersigned judge has a conflict is incorrect. Finally, Plaintiff has made no showing that the Court’s previous decisions in this case were the “products of deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that made fair judgment impossible.” Id. (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). Therefore, Plaintiff’s request for disqualification will be denied for lack of a viable legal theory and insufficient supporting evidence.

         2. Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration

         A party may request reconsideration of a final judgment (1) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e), by filing a motion to alter or amend the judgment, or (2) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), by filing a motion for relief from judgment. Because Plaintiff filed the Motion for Reconsideration within 28 days of the entry of final judgment in this matter, the Court will consider the Motion under Rule 59(e). See American Ironworkers & Erectors, Inc. v. N. American Constr. Corp., 248 F.3d 892, 898-99 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Reconsideration under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.” Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). A losing party cannot use a Rule 59(e) motion to relitigate old matters or to raise arguments that could have been raised before the entry of judgment. Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cnty. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). As a result, there are four limited grounds upon which a motion for reconsideration may be granted: (1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of fact or law; (2) the moving party presents newly discovered evidence; (3) reconsideration is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) there is an intervening change in the law. Turner v. Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Plaintiff first claims that the Court misconstrued his claims in this action. He states that, instead of alleging that he had a constitutional right to counsel in one of his previous civil cases, he actually intended to assert the following claims:

1. Is the District Courts [sic] Pro bono Program/Policy implemented by the District Court and the named and unnamed defendants constitutionally binding upon the Court and the defendants?
2. Did the defendants violate the plaintiffs [sic] constitutional rights against discrimination, differential treatment, denial of equal protection and due process by not honoring the policy they helped create along with the District Court?

(Dkt. 15 at 3.) Plaintiff’s request for reconsideration also “presents a third question”:

3. Does the 6th. and 14th. amendment right to counsel attach in a prisoners [sic] civil rights complaint, after the court grants the prisoners in forma pauperis request for counsel, and the court has implemented a program/policy which undeniably states that it ...

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