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Quigley v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

April 25, 2019

STEVE WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Harry Quigley's (“Plaintiff”) Complaint. (ECF No. 2.) By Standing Order entered in this case on October 12, 2018, this case was referred to Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble[1] for findings of fact and a recommendation for disposition (“PF&R”). (ECF No. 4.) On November 16, 2018, Magistrate Judge Trumble entered a PF&R in which he recommends that the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice as to Defendants Denver C. Offutt, Jr. (“Offutt”), Steven K. Nord (“Nord”), Ryan Q. Ashworth (“Ashworth”), Robert C. Chambers (“Judge Chambers”), Cheryl A. Eifert (“Magistrate Judge Eifert”), and Omar Aboulhosn (“Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn”), and without prejudice as to Defendants City of Huntington (“the City”), Mayor of Huntington Steve Williams (“Williams”), City Attorney Scott Damron (“Damron”), Joyce Clark (“Clark”), Charles McComas (“McComas”), Alex Vence (“Vence”), Jennifer Wheeler (“Wheeler”), Tonia Page (“Page”), Mark Bates (“Bates”), Mike Shockley (“Shockley”), Tom McGuffin (“McGuffin”), Tina Brooks (“Brooks”), Rebecca Howe (“Howe”), and Carol Polan (“Polan”), the latter eleven Defendants being Huntington City Council Members (collectively “City Council Members”), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Plaintiff filed timely Objections to the PF&R on November 30, 2018.

         For the reasons explained more fully herein, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Objections, (ECF No. 6), ADOPTS the PF&R, (ECF No. 5), and DISMISSES this action.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 17, 2016, Plaintiff was arrested for brandishing a weapon. (See ECF No. 2 at 7-9, ¶¶ 17-20.) This charge was eventually dropped. (See Id. at 10, ¶ 22.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the City and police officers violated his civil rights during his arrest. (See ECF No. 5 at 2.) The case was initially referred to Magistrate Judge Eifert; however, Magistrate Judge Eifert recused herself because the Offutt-Nord Law Firm, in which Magistrate Judge Eifert's husband is a founding partner, was selected by the City's insurance company to represent the City and the five named officers. (See ECF No. 2 at 11, ¶ 30.) Plaintiff filed a motion to have the Offutt-Nord Law Firm disqualified, which Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn denied. (See Id. at 12, ¶ 33.)

         On January 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to disqualify Judge Chambers and Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn, alleging bias, due in part to Judge Chambers' son being employed by the City. (See ECF No. 2 at 14, ¶ 40; ECF No. 5 at 3.) However, Judge Chambers denied Plaintiff's motion as to himself for failing to identify any interest that may reasonably be affected by the City's employment of his son. (See Id. at 3.) Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn also denied Plaintiff's motion as to himself for failing to argue any of the specific examples of when judges are disqualified under the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. (See Id. at 3-4.)

         Defendants in that case subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which, in a PF&R on April 27, 2018, Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn recommended granting. (See Id. at 4.) On September 27, 2018, Judge Chambers adopted Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn's PF&R and dismissed Plaintiff's case. (See id.) Plaintiff appealed Judge Chambers' order, arguing that Judge Chambers acted under the influence of extreme bias. (See Id. at 5.) On April 11, 2019, the Fourth Circuit denied that appeal. See Quigley v. City of Huntington, No. 18-2285, 2019 WL 1568608, *1 (4th Cir. Apr. 11, 2019).

         Plaintiff filed the present action on September 27, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by denying his access to the courts. (See ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff generally alleges that Defendants conspired to permit the Offutt-Nord Law Firm to appear in his previous civil rights case, causing Magistrate Judge Eifert to recuse herself and thus, denying Plaintiff access to an impartial court process. (See Id. at 15-26.)


         A. Review of PF&R

         Pursuant to Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court “must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as to those portions of the findings or recommendations to which no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). In addition, this Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party “makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (citations omitted). However, “[t]he district court cannot artificially limit the scope of its review by resort to ordinary prudential rules, such as waiver, provided that proper objection to the magistrate's proposed finding or conclusion has been made and the appellant's right to de novo review by the district court thereby established.” United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). In reviewing the portion of the PF&R to which Plaintiff objects, this Court will consider the fact that Plaintiff is acting pro se, and his filings will be accorded liberal construction. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978).

         B. Review of Complaint Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915

         When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, this Court must “screen [the litigant's] initial filings” before allowing the suit to proceed. Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 656 (4th Cir. 2006). This Court must dismiss the action if it determines during this screening process that the action “is frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         III. ...

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