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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Nixes Recusal Bid|in BBG Harassment Case

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge refused to remove herself from a sexual harassment case against the Broadcasting Board of Governors, saying she was not biased against the plaintiff's attorney.

Elham Sataki claimed U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was biased against her attorney because of his alleged ties to the Democratic Party and because Kollar-Kotelly had been appointed by former President Bill Clinton.

Sataki claimed that her attorney, Larry Klayman, was critical of the Democratic Party and of Clinton, and that the judge could not be impartial because she was appointed by Clinton and is allegedly affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Kollar-Kotelly wrote that after conducting an independent review of the record, she "is satisfied that no reasonable and informed observer would question this court's impartiality."

Sataki is suing the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and several of the company's employees over alleged sexual harassment and assault by a co-worker at the Persian News Network, which is managed by the BBG.

Kollar-Kotelly denied Sataki's request for a temporary restraining order in May, and Sataki filed a motion for reassignment in June on the same grounds as her recent motion.

Kollar-Kotelly refused to reassign the case in July and denied Sataki's request for a preliminary injunction.

Sataki argued that Klayman has been critical of the Democratic Party, Democratic officials and the federal judge, and that Kollar-Kotelly has harbored a prejudice against Klayman since the 1990s.

"While plaintiff's dissatisfaction with the court's rulings may provide a proper ground for appeal, her mere disagreement with the court's judicial rulings does not provide a proper ground for recusal," Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

"The only specific allegation that could arguably be construed as asserting an extrajudicial source of bias ... is counsel's assertion that he published a book in October of 2009, in which he was 'critical of [the undersigned], among other jurists and politicians and media figures,'" the judge wrote. "Importantly, however, counsel does not allege that the court itself was actually aware of the existence of this book or the allegedly critical comments contained therein" (emphasis in original).

"Therefore, even assuming the truth of the allegations in the affidavit, as the court must, there is no claim that this court had knowledge of this book or any of the statements allegedly made therein."

Kollar-Kotelly also rejected Sataki's claim that the judge is biased because her husband, also a lawyer, "played a role which was useful to President Clinton during the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal."

"It is entirely unclear from her counsel's vague and conclusory assertions how this alleged fact, even if true, would tend to foster or create an actual bias on the part of the undersigned in this case," Kollar-Kotelly wrote. "Nor has plaintiff provided any legal support for her apparent claim that recusal is warranted and necessary where, a decade or more ago, the presiding judge's spouse represented an individual, who is not a party to the instant litigation, in a matter wholly unrelated to the current lawsuit."

Kollar-Kotelly ruled that Sataki cannot prove bias and that she has "voluntarily dismissed nearly all of the substantive claims in this case ... and has chosen not to appeal the court's ruling denying her request for a preliminary injunction."

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