United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is Defendant's Motion for Recusal [ECF
No. 57]. For the reasons stated below, the motion is
September 13, 2016, the grand jury in the Southern District
of West Virginia returned a six-count indictment against the
defendant, Charles York Walker, Jr., in this case. Indictment
[ECF No. 18]. The indictment charges the defendant with three
counts of distributing heroin, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1), two counts of distributing fentanyl, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and being a felon in
possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Id.
the defendant and the government entered into a plea
agreement. The defendant agreed to plead guilty to a
separate, single-count information (case No. 2:17-cr-10), and
the government agreed to move the court to dismiss the
six-count indictment in this case. Plea Agreement, No.
2:17-cr-10 [ECF No. 9]. The information charged the defendant
with a single count of distributing heroin, in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Information, No. 2:17-cr-10 [ECF
No. 1]. At the defendant's plea hearing, I accepted the
defendant's guilty plea to the single-count information
but deferred acceptance of the plea agreement until I had
reviewed the Presentence Investigation Report
(“PSR”). Plea Hr'g, No. 2:17-cr-10 [ECF No.
4]. The plea agreement included a stipulation of facts in
which the defendant and the government stipulated to certain
criminal conduct of the defendant that amounted to drug
trafficking. Plea Agreement at Ex. B, No. 2:17-cr-10.
reviewing the defendant's PSR, I rejected the
defendant's plea agreement, finding that it was not in
the public interest. United States v. Walker, No.
2:17-cr-10, 2017 WL 2766452 (S.D. W.Va. June 26, 2017)
(“the Memorandum”). After I rejected the plea
agreement, the defendant withdrew his guilty plea as to the
single-count information. Hr'g, No. 2:17-cr-10 [ECF No.
39]. The government then moved to dismiss the single-count
information. Notice Dismissal, No. 2:17-cr-10 [ECF No. 40]. I
granted the motion, and case No. 2:17-cr-10 was closed.
Order, No. 2:17-cr-10 [ECF No. 41].
government now proceeds to trial on four counts of the
original indictment against the defendant. The defendant
argues that the Memorandum, rejecting his plea agreement in
case No. 2:17-cr-10, warrants recusal in this case. Mot.
Recusal 7- 9 [ECF No. 57]. The defendant claims the
Memorandum demonstrates that the court has an actual and
apparent bias against him. See Id. at 9-10.
has specified many circumstances under which a judge must
recuse himself from a proceeding. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 455. Two such circumstances are at issue in this case.
First, any judge of the United States “shall disqualify
himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might
reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
Second, any judge of the United States “shall also
disqualify 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).
recusal motion, where the source of the alleged bias or
partiality comes from judicial proceedings in the case, the
“extrajudicial source limitation” applies to the
analysis under both § 455(a) and § 455(b)(1).
Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 554 (1994)
(“[W]e think that the ‘extrajudicial source'
doctrine . . . applies to § 455(a).”); Belue
v. Leventhal, 640 F.3d 567, 573 (4th Cir. 2011)
(recognizing that the Liteky Court concluded that
“both § 455(a) and § 455(b)(1) carry an
‘extrajudicial source' limitation”). The
extrajudicial source limitation generally requires that
“the bias or prejudice must ‘result in an opinion
on the merits [of a case] on some basis other than what the
judge learned from his participation in the case.'”
Belue, 640 F.3d at 572-73 (quoting Liteky,
510 U.S. at 545 n.1). It is called a “limitation”
rather than a “doctrine” because the
Liteky Court determined that an extrajudicial source
of the bias is neither necessary nor sufficient for recusal.
Liteky, 510 U.S. at 554-55; Belue, 640 F.3d
at 573 (“[T]he [Liteky] Court was careful to
not make the extrajudicial source limitation an ironclad
rule.”). In expounding on the scope of the
extrajudicial source limitation, the Liteky Court
[J]udicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid
basis for a bias or partiality motion . . . [and] opinions
formed by the judge on the basis of facts introduced or
events occurring in the course of the current proceedings, or
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
Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555 (emphasis added) (citations
Fourth Circuit has concluded that the Liteky Court
set a “high bar” for recusals based on bias not
stemming from an extrajudicial source. Belue, 640
F.3d at 573. “[I]f strong views on a matter were
disqualifying-then a judge would hardly have the freedom to
be a judge.” Id. “[T]o argue that judges
must desist from forming strong views about ...