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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawyer Can’t Boot Judge Who Gave Him a Tongue-Lashing

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge barely dignified the attempt to recuse her from a conspiracy case filed by the families of support staff for Navy SEAL Team Six killed in an Afghanistan terrorist attack.

The families of Michael Strange, Patrick Hamburger and John Douangdara brought the action just a month ago against Iran and Afghanistan, as well as the leaders of both countries and the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Larry Klayman with Freedom Watch filed the action for the plaintiffs, and it soon fell on the docket of U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

While presiding over a different case involving Klayman back in 2011, Kollar-Kotelly scolded the lawyer for his "consistent pattern of engaging in dilatory tactics, his disobedience of court-ordered deadlines, and his disregard for the federal rules of civil procedure and the local rules of this court, coupled with the patent failure of the court's use of lesser sanctions in the past to have any discernible effect on Klayman's conduct in this litigation."

Citing "the interest of fairness," the Strange and other families requested that Kollar-Kotelly transfer their case to a new judge.

Kollar-Kotelly's refusal Tuesday clocks in at just three pages.

"Plaintiffs have presented no evidence of judicial bias other than the existence of separate litigation involving the undersigned District Court judge," she wrote. "Nor have plaintiffs identified any extrajudicial acts by this court that demonstrate pervasive bias or prejudice against plaintiffs. Granting a motion to recuse solely because a party has sued the judge would transform such motions to recuse into vehicles for judge shopping. Accordingly, the court finds plaintiffs' motion is without merit."

The families seek $600 million in treble damages for violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

"On August 6, 2011, just three months after the Bin Laden raid, Afghan terrorist Taliban jihadists shot down a U.S. Boeing CH-47D Chinook military helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, in Afghanistan, killing thirty Americans, including twenty-two Navy SEALs and SEAL support personnel, five Army National Guardsmen, three Air Force members and eight Afghans [seven commandoes and one interpreter]," the complaint states. "Of the Navy SEALs that were killed, all but two were members of the elite SEAL Team VI, the unit that carried out the operation resulting in the death of Bin Laden just ninety days earlier."

The complaint accuses Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai of arranging secret contacts with the Taliban.

It also accuses Iran of paying bounties to terrorists for killing Americans.

In a dig at the federal government, the families claimed that the Obama administration has yet to offer them an explanation as to what happened.

"For example, there was an encounter between plaintiff Strange and President Obama where plaintiff Strange told Mr. Obama that he did not need to know about his son (after the President stated to plaintiff Strange that his son was a hero for the country); rather, plaintiff Strange wanted to know what happened to his son. President Obama mentioned he would look into this 'very deeply,' yet still, no answers have been forthcoming," the complaint states.

No American government officials are named as defendants in the case.

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