United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
AHAMAD R. ATKINS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent. Criminal No. 14-cr-40061-JPG
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on petitioner Ahamad R.
Atkins' motion for the Court to recuse itself from this
case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 455(b)(1) and 144 on
the grounds that the Court is biased or prejudiced (Doc. 2).
September 24, 2014, the petitioner pled guilty to one count
of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and heroin in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a), 841(b)(1)(C) and
846. At the time of the plea, the petitioner was represented
by Eugene Howard. Before sentencing, Howard asked to withdraw
as counsel, and the Court replaced him with Rodney H. Holmes.
On May 18, 2015, after hearing testimony from a number of
witnesses, the Court sentenced the petitioner to serve 216
months in prison, and judgment was entered May 28, 2015. The
petitioner appealed his conviction to the United States Court
of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which on March 18, 2016,
dismissed the appeal because it was frivolous. See United
States v. Atkins, 640 F. App'x 549 (7th Cir. 2016).
Atkins did not file a petition for a writ of
certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. He
filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § § 2255 on February
asks the Court to recuse itself from this § 2255
proceeding on the grounds that the Court is biased against
him. He supports this argument by pointing to statements the
undersigned judge made from the bench during Atkins'
initial appearance and arraignment and during his sentencing
that he claims demonstrate this bias.
28 U.S.C. § 144
this provision, a judge must recuse himself “[w]henever
a party . . . makes and files a timely and sufficient
affidavit that the judge before whom the matter is pending
has a personal bias or prejudice either against him or in
favor of any adverse party.” 28 U.S.C. § 144.
“An affidavit is sufficient if it avers facts that, if
true, would convince a reasonable person that bias
exists.” United States v. Balistrieri, 779
F.2d 1191, 1199 (7th Cir. 1985), overruled in part on
other grounds by Fowler v. Butts, 829 F.3d 788, 791 (7th
Cir. 2016); accord O'Regan v. Arbitration Forums,
Inc., 246 F.3d 975, 989 (7th Cir. 2001). The facts in
the affidavit must be stated with particularity and must be
definite as to times, places, persons and circumstances. They
cannot be mere conclusions, opinions, or rumors.
O'Regan, 246 F.3d at 989; United States v.
Sykes, 7 F.3d 1331, 1339 (7th Cir. 1993);
Balistrieri, 779 F.2d at 1199. The affidavit also
must show “that the bias is personal rather than
judicial, and that it stems from an extrajudicial source -
some source other than what the judge has learned through
participation in the case.” Balistrieri, 779
F.2d at 1199 (citations omitted); accord Sykes, 7
F.3d at 1339. All allegations in the affidavit must be taken
as true, even if the Court knows them to be false.
Sykes, 7 F.3d at 1339; Balistrieri, 779
F.2d at 1199. Because the statute “is heavily weighed
in favor of recusal, ” its requirements are to be
strictly construed to prevent abuse. Sykes, 7 F.3d
at 1339; Balistrieri, 779 F.2d at 1199.
has not submitted the required affidavit to support his
request for recusal under § 144. Nor has he pointed to
any extrajudicial source of personal, as opposed to judicial,
bias. Indeed the comments of the undersigned judge that
Atkins finds objectionable came only from what the
undersigned judge learned about Atkins from the proceedings
in this case. Such comments cannot support recusal under
28 U.S.C. 455(b)(1)
this provision, a judge must recuse himself “[w]here he
has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or
personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning
the proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1). As with
§ 144, bias justifying recusal under this statute must
arise from an extrajudicial source. In re City of
Milwaukee, 788 F.3d 717, 720 (7th Cir. 2015);
O'Regan v. Arbitration Forums, Inc., 246 F.3d
975, 988 (7th Cir. 2001). “[N]either judicial rulings
nor opinions formed by the judge as a result of current or
prior proceedings constitute a basis for recusal
‘unless they display a deep-seated favoritism or
antagonism that would make fair judgment
impossible.'” United States v. White, 582
F.3d 787, 807 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Liteky v. United
States, 510 U.S. 540, 555 (1994)). “Furthermore,
‘expressions of impatience, dissatisfaction, annoyance,
and even anger' do not justify requiring recusal.”
White, 582 F.3d at 807 (quoting Liteky, 510
U.S. at 555-56).
none of the Court's statements cited by Atkins reflect
bias that arose from an extrajudicial source. On the
contrary, those statements stemmed from information contained
in Atkins' presentence investigation report and evidence
received at the sentencing hearing. There is no suggestion
that the undersigned judge had any opinion about Atkins from
anything other than what occurred in the court proceedings
themselves. Additionally, the Court may have been short with
Atkins, used a harsh tone of voice, or expressed a negative
belief about Atkins' crimes and rehabilitative potential,
but that does not rise to the type of deep-seated antagonism
that would justify recusal. For these reasons, recusal under
§ 455(b)(1) is not warranted.
foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Atkins' motion for
recusal (Doc. 2).