Judge won’t recuse self in Riser case

All but one motion denied, Rice refuses free lawyer request

IAN SMAY, Evergreen reporter

Thomas Rice, the judge presiding over a case involving former WSU employee Darryl Riser suing WSU and multiple university administrators including President Kirk Schulz, has denied Riser’s motion for recusal based on alleged bias.

Riser’s motion for recusal was based on nine points, including claims of bias and threats to dismiss the case by Rice, according to court documents.

In dismissing all nine points of Riser’s motion, Rice wrote in his decision that Riser did not understand the previous actions of the court in regards to the case.

“Ultimately, [Riser’s] complaints stem from patent misunderstandings and the court’s objective assessment of [his] motions,” Rice wrote. “The court has never disparaged [Riser] in any manner.”

The first two points in Riser’s request dealt with his motion to be granted “in forma pauperis” status, which refers to a plaintiff who does not have the means to pay normal court costs. Riser claimed he was not given the status, but Rice wrote in his decision that Riser was.

The other issue in regards to this status was Riser’s claim that Rice had referred to him as a “prisoner,” which Rice dismissed, stating the statue references prisoners but is also applied to non-prisoners like Riser.

Rice’s reasoning for dismissing the third point, in which Riser claimed Rice had “threatened [him] to voluntarily dismiss the complaint against defendants … within 60 days or the entire cause of action would be dismissed,” was that Riser had misinterpreted the “standard language” used when determining if a claim met the correct standards to proceed.

Riser claimed in his fifth point that Rice had given a “personal opinion” on the strength of Riser’s claims, according to court documents. Rice explained in his decision that this was necessary.

“Determining the strength of [Riser’s] claims was necessary in determining the likelihood of success on the merits—a necessary component in determining whether [he] was entitled to the relief sought,” Rice wrote.

Rice dismissed Riser’s accusation of verbal attacks stemming from the judge calling Riser’s claims “frivolous” and having “no-standing.”

“Review … shows that it does not include any negative tone and was not condescending or critical of [Riser].” Rice wrote.

Rice also denied Riser’s motion for pro bono counsel.

“Given the court’s past assessment and [Riser]’s ample ability to articulate his position and demonstrated ability to research the law, the motion is denied,” Rice wrote.

In all, Rice denied nine of Riser’s 10 standing motions, while partially granting one motion that dealt with extending the deadline for Riser to resubmit previously denied claims.