State Farm on Feburary 22 filed a motion asking Judge L.T. Senter Jr. to recuse himself from the Guice v. State Farm case. Here is a pdf of the motion. On the docket, I did not see an accompanying legal memorandum. Plaintiff lawyers are trying to get the Guice case certified as a class action, with Judy Guice being the lead plaintiff for all Mississippi residents whose homes were totally destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the recusal motion says Senter should pull out for appearance’s sake because a federal magistrate judge and the law clerk for another district court judge are members of the putative class.
A few comments: one, this proposed class seems to make sense to me, unlike some of the other attempts to certify class actions in these Katrina cases. Folks who have had homes destroyed have legal issues in common, as opposed to being mixed in with other kinds of damage. Two, if you have time, read the motion and see if you agree with me: it has that aura of being written by someone who expects to lose, kind of going through the motions. Three, if Senter can’t do it, who can? Answer: no one. He’s the last Article III judge left in the Southern District of Mississippi who isn’t conflicted out. So this is almost like a transfer of venue motion, which State Farm has not been successful with in other cases. I could be wrong — it happens frequently, just ask my kids — but I don’t expect Senter to recuse himself.
In the Guice case, State Farm also filed a motion to disqualify the judge’s law clerk. It is much the same as a motion State Farm filed in the Broussard case the day before. For more on what the motion means in that case, see this earlier post.
Here is a pdf of the memorandum filed by State Farm regarding disqualification of the clerk. Here is a pdf of the motion. This stuff reads a lot more persuasively than the motion for Senter to recuse, kind of like the person who wrote it really believes it. Again, see my earlier post for more details.
Sidenote: You know, last Friday at his press conference, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood accused State Farm of trying to "intimidate a federal judge" by withdrawing from underwriting new homeowners and commercial insurance in the state. Good thing his press conference wasn’t held today: he might interpret State Farm’s motion for Judge Senter to recuse himself as equivalent to a visit from several members of the Tony Soprano crew.