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Jackson v. Ossell

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 16, 2019

HOWARD G. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID OSSELL and MELISSA GUNDERSON, Defendants.

          Howard G. Jackson, pro se plaintiff.

          Stephen J. Christie, for Defendant David Ossell.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR RECUSAL

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Howard G. Jackson brought this action against Defendants David Ossell, Melissa Gunderson and the Ramsey County Human Services Department. The Ramsey County Human Services Department was subsequently dismissed from this action. (Am. Order, Apr. 30, 2018, Docket No. 17.) The claims against Ossell and Gunderson in their official capacities were also dismissed. (Id.) The only remaining claim is one based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and is brought against Ossell and Gunderson in their individual capacities. Jackson alleges that Ossell and Gunderson violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. (See Compl. at 3, Dec. 18, 2017, Docket No. 1; Ex., Feb. 20, 2018, Docket No. 6.) Jackson seeks damages for emotional harm. (Compl. at 4.)

         Currently before the Court is Jackson's Motion for Recusal of Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson and Chief Judge John R. Tunheim. (Mot. for Recusal at 3, March 1, 2019, Docket No. 90.) Jackson also seeks to have Defendants' attorneys disqualified and removed from the case. (Id.) Alternatively, Jackson seeks to change the venue. (Id. at 4.) The Court will deny Jackson's Motion in its entirety because Jackson has failed to show why he is entitled to such actions.

         DISCUSSION

         Jackson alleges the following facts:[1]

         Some time in 2012, Jackson received full physical custody over his daughter, N.E.W. (See Aff. of Howard G. Jackson (“Jackson Aff.”) at 2, Sept. 5, 2018, Docket No. 48.) After receiving full custody of N.E.W., Jackson spoke to his probation officer, M.B., about his receiving custody of N.E.W. (Id. at 2-3.) M.B., unsure whether Jackson could have full custody of N.E.W. due to a sex offense committed by Jackson when he was a minor, informed Jackson that he would be contacting the Ramsey County Human Services Department (“Human Services”) to get the correct answer. (Id. at 3-4.) Even after receiving full custody of N.E.W., Jackson never had actual custody of her because he never had the chance to get N.E.W. from her mother. (Id. at 4.)

         After M.B. reported to Human Services, Jackson received a call from Gunderson, a Human Services social worker, requesting to meet at Jackson's apartment to talk about N.E.W. and whether Jackson was fit to be a parent. (Id. at 6.) Jackson declined to meet at his apartment. (Id.) Despite this, Gunderson and Ossell came to Jackson's apartment while he was out. (See Id. at 18.) Gunderson and Ossell informed the landlord of Jackson's apartment, Greg Mach, that they needed to check within Jackson's apartment. (Id. at 9.) Mach asked if they had a warrant, and they responded that they did not have one. (Id.) Mach then declined to let them into the apartment. (Id.) Gunderson and Ossell then informed Mach that they would leave to get a warrant, and that Mach could get into trouble should there be a child in danger within the apartment. (See id.) Mach then allowed Gunderson and Ossell into Jackson's apartment without Jackson's consent and without a warrant. (Id. at 9-10.)

         Jackson later returned to his apartment and discovered that the lock on his door had been changed. (Id. at 11.) When Jackson asked Mach why the locks had been changed, Mach explained that he was evicting Jackson because Gunderson and Ossell told him that Jackson was a registered sex offender. (Id. at 12.) Eventually, however, Mach agreed not to evict Jackson. (Id. at 13.)

         The next day, Jackson went to see Gunderson at her office. (Id. at 14.) When Jackson asked Gunderson why she and Ossell went to his apartment, she looked lost. (Id. at 16.) Jackson was informed that N.E.W. had already been placed on hold, and had a scheduled hearing in front of a court. (Id. at 17; Mot. to Am. Compl., Ex. 1, Oct. 26, 2018, Docket No. 53-1.) At the hearing, Jackson explained the circumstances of Ossell and Gunderson's visit to his home, but the court decided that because he is a registered sex offender, he could not have custody of N.E.W. (Jackson Aff. at 18-20.)

         Jackson filed two CDs with the Court. (Notice of Evidence (“First CD”), March 29, 2018, Docket No. 11-1; Notice (“Second CD”), Apr. 25, 2018, Docket No. 14-2.) The first CD contains an audio file of a discussion between Jackson and a Child Welfare employee. (First CD.) Jackson asks why Child Welfare intervened despite a nine-year gap between his last offense and the date Jackson received custody of N.E.W. (Id.) The employee explained that Child Welfare Services is statutorily obligated to make those reports. (Id.) Jackson then asked why “you guys”-presumably Child Welfare-went to his house without permission. (Id.) The employee was unable to answer this question because she was not present during the incident. (Id.) When pressed, the employee offered that, had she been in the same situation, she would not have entered Jackson's house. (Id.)

         The second CD also contained an audio file. (Second CD.) This audio file contains a discussion between Jackson and Judy Hanson, an attorney for the Saint Paul City Attorney's office who was representing Ossell. (Id.) In the discussion, Jackson says that he received a letter from the Saint Paul City Attorney's Office. (Id.) It arrived after a deadline to respond to the letter. (Id.) The envelope carrying the letter was addressed to 1350 Saint Clair, even though that was not Jackson's residence, but the letter itself contained Jackson's correct address at Emerson Avenue. (Id.) Hanson explained that her secretary might have made a mistake and that the 1350 Saint Clair address was the one listed on Jackson's Complaint. (Id.) Hanson then went on to explain that she would be filing a motion to dismiss, and needed to have a discussion with Jackson before doing so. (Id.)

         I. MOTION FOR RECUSAL

         Jackson moves to have the Court and Magistrate Judge Thorson removed from this case. A court should recuse from a matter if the Court's “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455. The Court should recuse if it is shown that the Court has a personal bias or prejudice arising from an extrajudicial source. Rossbach v. United States, 878 F.2d 1088, 1089 (8th Cir. 1989) (citing United States v. Jones, 801 F.2d 304, 312 (8th Cir. 1986)); see also Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 551 (1994) (extrajudicial source is not the only basis for establishing disqualifying bias or prejudice, but is the most common basis). Judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for a bias or partiality motion for disqualification. Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555.

         A. ...


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