United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Valene Powell filed a lawsuit against Wheaton WIC Center on
February 22, 2018 alleging a violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12112-12117, by the failure to provide her with
an American Sign Language ("ASL") interpreter on
January 18, 2018. See Compl., ECF No. 1 in
PWG-18-535. That case was dismissed on February 11, 2019 for
lack of jurisdiction. See Mem. & Order, ECF No.
30 in PWG-18-535. Ms. Powell then filed a State Court
Complaint in the Montgomery County Circuit Court on March 12,
2019, alleging discrimination by the Defendant based on the
failure to provide an ASL interpreter on January 18, 2018.
See Compl., ECF No. 4. Defendant removed the case to
this Court on May 2, 2019 because the ADA is a federal
statute, and federal district courts have original
jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under federal law.
Not., ECF No. 1 (citing 28 U.S.C. S 1331). Pending before me
is Ms. Powell's Motion for Recusal (ECF No. 9) and
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11). As discussed
below, because this case is based on the same claim by Ms.
Powell against the same Defendant, and it was previously
dismissed on the merits, Defendant's motion to dismiss
will be granted, and this case must also be dismissed.
Additionally, Ms. Powell's motion will be denied because
there are no grounds for recusal.
well-pleaded allegations in Ms. Powell's pro se
Complaint (ECF No.4) are accepted as true for purposes of
resolving Defendant's Motion. See Aziz v.
Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).
Additionally, pro se complaints are "liberally
construed" and are "held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
Powell scheduled an appointment at the Wheaton WIC Center
operated by CCI Health & Wellness Services
("CCI") for January 18, 2018, with the
understanding that CCI would provide an ASL interpreter for
her. Compl. 2, ECF No. 4. When she arrived just prior to her
appointment time, the front desk staff told her that the
"Interpreter is on way." Id. Ms. Powell
waited 30 minutes, but the interpreter did not arrive.
Id. CCI called Ms. Powell multiple times in an
effort to reschedule, but she did not respond and blocked
their calls. Id. at 2-3. Ms. Powell also complains
that she was provided an interpreter less than 5 times for
her appointments during the period 2014 to 2017, but she
didn't speak out and request one as her right until
January 18, 2018. Id. at 1-2.
Powell filed a lawsuit on February 22, 2018 in federal court
alleging Defendant's violation of the ADA and was very
disappointed that I dismissed the suit in February 2019.
Id. at 3 (referring to PWG-18-535.. Ms. Powell then
filed this second lawsuit because she didn't think it was
fair that the Defendant should win. Id. After
Defendant properly removed this case to federal court, it was
assigned to me, and Ms. Powell filed a letter requesting that
another judge be assigned because I had not supported her in
the first case. Ltr., ECF No. 9 (deemed a Motion for
Recusal). However, Ms. Powell cites no other reasons for why
a different judge should be assigned. Additionally, CCI has
filed a motion to dismiss this case based on the legal
doctrine of res judicata, i.e., claim preclusion,
asserting that Ms. Powell has simply refiled the same claim
against them that was previously dismissed. Mot. Mem. 3.
res judicata doctrine "bars a party from suing
on a claim that has already been litigated to a final
judgment by that party or such party's privies and
precludes the assertion by such parties of any legal theory,
cause of action, or defense which could have been asserted in
that action." Reid v. New Century Mortg. Corp.,
No. AW-12-2083, 2012 WL 6562887, at *3 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012)
(quoting Ohio Valley Envtl. Coal v. Aracoma Coal
Co., 556 F.3d 177, 210 (4th Cir. 2009)). In Maryland,
res judicata provides grounds for dismissal where a
defendant establishes "(1) the parties in the present
litigation are the same or in privity with the parties in the
earlier dispute; (2) the current claim presented is identical
to the claim that had been resolved in the prior dispute; and
(3) the prior dispute resulted in a final judgment on the
merits," Reid v. New Century Mortg. Corp., No.
PX-18-233, 2018 WL 4538585, at *5 (D. Md. Sept. 20, 2018).
case has the same parties as the prior case, and the claim
that Ms. Powell is alleging against CCI is the same claim
that she alleged in the prior case. Finally, the prior case
was a dismissal with prejudice for failure to state a claim
under the ADA, which constitutes a final judgment on the
merits. See, e.g., McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d
391, 396 (4th Cir. 2009) ("[A] dismissal for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is presumed to be both a
judgment on the merits and to be rendered with
prejudice."). Therefore, this case is precluded and
shall be dismissed.
regard to Ms. Powell's request for a different judge to
be assigned to this case, 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) provides
that a judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding
in which his impartiality might reasonably be
questioned." The judge's purported "bias or
prejudice must, as a general matter, stem from 'a source
outside the judicial proceeding at hand' in order to
disqualify a judge" Belue v. Leventhal, 640
F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2011) (concluding that judge's
opinions formed during the proceedings did not necessitate
the judge's disqualification) (quoting Liteky v.
United States, 510 U.S. 540, 545, 551 (1994)). Thus, a
judge must recuse himself or herself if an extrajudicial
source provides a reasonable factual basis for calling the
judge's impartiality into question. In re Beard,
811 F.2d 818, 827 (4th Cir. 1987). If a judge's
"familiarity with the facts of a case stem from [the
judge's] judicial conduct in presiding over earlier
proceedings"" the judge typically need not recuse
himself or herself, even if the judge has formed an opinion
about the case, id. at 827, unless the judge's
stated opinion "display[s] a deep-seated favoritism or
antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible."
See Liteky, 510 U.S. at 551, 55;; Belue,
640 F.3d at 572.
also is required to disqualify himself or herself if the
judge has "personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary
facts concerning the proceeding" or if the judge is
"likely to be a material witness in the
proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1), (5)(iv). As
with § 455(a), the judge's knowledge referenced in
§ 455(b)(1) must "stem from a 'source outside
the judicial proceeding at hand' in order to disqualify
[the] judge." Belue, 640 F.3d at 572 (quoting
Liteky, 510 U.S. at 545). Unlike § 455(a),
§ 455(b)(1) pertains to knowledge that is both actual
and personal. See Liteky, 510 U.S. at 548.
this case's conclusion itse1fis a sufficient basis to
deny Ms. Powell's motion as moot, I also note that I have
neither formed nor offered any opinion as to the merits of
the case before me. The only knowledge I have of the case
stems from the motions and letters I read in the prior case
and this case. There is no extrajudicial source of knowledge
to raise any doubt in a reasonable person as to my
impartiality. Additionally, I do not feel or express any
partiality for one party over the other, nor have I formed
any bias as to the merits of the case, let alone a
"deep-seated favoritism or antagonism that would make
fair judgment impossible." Liteky, 510 U.S. at
555. Even if the case were to continue, I could not be called
as a witness. See Fed. R. Evid. 605.3 Therefore,
there is no basis to recuse myself under 28 U.S.C. §
455(a) or (b)(1) or (5)(iv). See Belue, 640 F.3d at
572; In re Beard, 811 F.2d at 827. As the other
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 455 are not relevant to this
case, my disqualification is unnecessary.
reasons stated above, it is, this 14th day of January, ...