United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge
matter is before the Court on a letter from defense counsel
suggesting that the Court recuse from further involvement in
this case. The Court hereby recuses from further proceedings
in this case. This Court specifically denies any bias in this
November 2016, the grand jury returned a 24-count Indictment
against Defendant Aaron J. Schock. On December 7, 2016, the
Court denied Defendant's Motion for Change of Venue.
Opinion (d/e 14). On December 9, 2016, the Court denied the
Government's Motion for Order Restricting Extrajudicial
Statements. Opinion (d/e 16).
January 12, 2017, counsel for Defendant filed, under seal, a
letter to the Court suggesting that recusal from further
proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) may be
appropriate due to circumstances produced by Defendant
herein. See d/e 39 (letter and attachments).
Contrary to local rule, defense counsel did not seek leave to
file the letter and the attachments under seal. See
CDIL-LR 49.9(A) (providing the procedure for filing under
seal and also providing that a court may order a sealed
document be made public if the document is filed in disregard
of legal standards). The Court now DIRECTS the Clerk to
unseal the letter and the attachments (d/e 39), the
Government's response (d/e 43), and the reply (d/e 45),
as there is no basis for keeping the information sealed.
letter, defense counsel states that the suggestion for
recusal was prompted by the Government's recent
production of documents to Defendant's counsel. The
documents consist of emails from March and November 2011 that
counsel claims demonstrate that Defendant, in his capacity as
a Member of Congress for the 18th Congressional District of
Illinois and in conjunction with then-U.S. Senator Mark Kirk,
took steps to ensure that Chief Judge James E. Shadid's
commission would be signed by the President before the
undersigned judge's commission. This resulted in Judge
Shadid becoming the Chief Judge for the Central District of
Illinois instead of the undersigned judge.
counsel asserts that this fact, alone or taken together with
additional facts -that the Court considered running in 2008
to serve as the Representative for Illinois' 18th
Congressional District, the year Defendant first ran for that
office, and the Court's daughter's engagement to a
transactional attorney in the firm that represents Defendant
in this litigation-could cause an objective third-party
observer to reasonably question the Court's impartiality.
to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), “[a]ny justice, judge, or
magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify
himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might
reasonably be questioned.” Section 455(a) is
self-executing, meaning a judge must recuse sua
sponte when the facts warrant recusal. See Taylor v.
O'Grady, 888 F.2d 1189, 1200 (7th Cir.1989);
Wilson v. City of Chi., 710 F.Supp. 1168, 1169 (N.D.
Ill. 1989). The purpose of § 455(a) is to “promote
public confidence in the integrity of the judicial
process.” Liljeberg v. Health Servs. Acquisition
Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 860 (1988).
test for recusal under § 455(a) is an objective one that
asks whether “an objective, disinterested observer
fully informed of the reasons that recusal was sought would
entertain a significant doubt that justice would be done in
the case.” United States v. Herrera-Valdez,
826 F.3d 912, 917 (7th Cir. 2016); see also Matter of
Hatcher, 150 F.3d 631, 637 (7th Cir. 1998) (“This
is an objective inquiry.”). The judge's actual
state of mind is immaterial under § 455(a). Liteky
v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 548 (1994) (noting that,
under § 455(a), “what matters is not the reality
of bias or prejudice but its appearance”); United
States v. Cooley, 1 F.3d 985, 993 (10th Cir. 1993)
(“In applying § 455(a), the judge's actual
state of mind, purity of heart, incorruptibility, or lack of
partiality are not the issue.”).
is not an element of a violation of § 455(a).”
Lijeberg, 486 U.S. at 859. Nor does the judge's
lack of knowledge of the facts that create an appearance of
impropriety eliminate the risk that the judge's
impartiality may reasonably be questioned. Id. at
Court appreciates defense counsel bringing the information to
the Court's attention. The Court does not believe that
those facts in any way affect the Court's impartiality.
Nonetheless, this information, through no fault of the Court,
creates a cloud over the Court continuing to preside in this
case. Therefore, the Court will recuse on its own motion.
reasons stated, the undersigned judge RECUSES from further
proceedings in this case. This matter is referred to Chief
Judge Shadid for reassignment per the Court's internal
procedures for reassignment. The Clerk is DIRECTED to unseal
the letter and ...