Without recusal in the case of Samantha Markle v. Megan Markle

Fromm Markle v. Markle, decided today by Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell (MD, Florida); it seems quite right to me (see TIMES on the substantive issue of the case):

In this act, Samantha Markle sues Megan, the Duchess of Sussex, for libel and malicious lying. She now seeks disqualification of the undersigned under 28 USC § 455 (a) ….

Samantha Markle wants disqualification since President Barack Obama appointed the undersigned federal judge in 2009. She argues that “there is reasonable reason to [the undersigned’s] impartiality will be called into question, “because President Obama has appointed the undersigned, and the Obama family, Prince Harry and Megan are” allies “and strong supporters of each other. She also stressed that the Duchess met in private with First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018 and, in 2020, co-chaired a voter registration campaign with the former First Lady, whom the Duchess called her “girlfriend”.

In addition to describing Prince Harry and President Obama as “allies,” Markle claims that Prince Harry visited the former president at the White House, met the former president and former first lady at Kensington Palace, and conducted an “intimate interview” with the former president. Finally, she claims that the Duchess and the former president “share the same leadership for the communication team”.

The proposal for disqualification is not justified. Despite the claim that the public will have “significant doubts” about the impartiality of the undersigned, because “there seems to be an indisputable connection” between Obama and the Duchess, Markle admits that she “does not know whether [the undersigned] has ongoing relations with Obama and how far the relationship has existed. “Of course, a valid request for recusal cannot have de facto support, nor can any party presuppose a request for recusal in the case of unsupported or very weak speculation.

As Markle points out, President Obama appointed the undersigned nearly 13 years ago. But the undersigned has never had any social or professional relationship with Obama. The undersigned has never spoken to the former president or former first lady. The appointment of the undersigned by President Obama, without further ado, does not serve as a ground for dismissal. See, e.g., Straw v. United States (Fed. Cir. 2021) “There is no support for the claim that a judge can be disqualified solely on the basis of the identity of the president who appointed him. [her]. “); McKee v. US Department of Justice (DDC 2017) (“[T]The identity of the President who appointed the assigned judge has nothing to do with the recusal. “) an uninterested, unprofessional observer fully informed of these facts will have no substantial doubt as to the impartiality signed below, as such the Court will reject the request for disqualification.

“Furthermore, Markle’s request for recusal is slower than those in which presiding district judges have rejected recusal requests because the presidents who appointed them are parties to the lawsuit. See In re Executive Office of the President (DC Cir. 2000) (rejects the request for disqualification under § 455 (a) and Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for Judges in the United States when the action “[i]includes the conduct of the President, who appoints a ‘presiding judge of a district court’); see also Trump v. Clinton (SD Fla. 2022) (rejects the request for recusal when First Lady Hillary Clinton was indicted and President Bill Clinton appointed a presiding district judge).}

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