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Lawyer warned again about criticizing magistrate judge

February 15, 2018

A lawyer’s arguments on behalf of a client suing Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act has drawn a second written warning for his claims that a magistrate judge is biased.

John Thrasher represents Justin Castelino in a suit against the Terre Haute school where Castelino was a student for three years before he was suspended and later denied readmission. Thrasher moved under Federal Rule 28 U.S.C. (section) 144 to remove Judge William T. Lawrence and Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore from the case, alleging both were biased against Castelino or in favor of Rose-Hulman.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied the motion Wednesday.

“Mr. Castelino’s (section) 144 Affidavit addresses rulings made by Magistrate Judge Dinsmore and Judge Lawrence in this case which the Court finds were well-reasoned and thorough, and which do not reflect any personal bias or prejudice on the part of either judge. While Mr. Castelino attempts to spin his arguments to focus on how Magistrate Judge Dinsmore and Judge Lawrence reached their decisions, he essentially complains about the rulings that were reached,” Magnus-Stinson wrote.

Lawrence in September chastised Thrasher for a “baseless accusation of misconduct” against Dinsmore. The judge in an entry at that time told Thrasher to review the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct, noting his conduct “has come perilously close to crossing the line from vigorous (if misguided) advocacy to sanctionable conduct.”

Thrasher subsequently filed the section 144 action seeking to remove Dinsmore and Lawrence from presiding in Castelino’s case.

In her order denying that motion, Magnus-Stinson on Wednesday took note of Lawrence’s prior warning to issue a sterner one.

“Mr. Castelino has not presented any facts showing that Magistrate Judge Dinsmore has any actual bias or prejudice toward him, and these statements approach the lines drawn in Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2 (prohibiting litigants from making statements regarding the integrity of a judge that are false or made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity) and Seventh Circuit Standards of Professional Conduct (paragraph) 4 (stating that an attorney will not ‘absent good cause, attribute bad motives or improper conduct to other counsel or bring the profession into disrepute by unfounded accusations of impropriety’),” she wrote. “Counsel is warned not to cross these lines in this and any other litigation in which he is involved.” 

Castelino’s amended complaint says he has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and auditory processing disorder — diagnoses recognized under the ADA that require reasonable accommodations. Castelino also alleges maltreatment by Rose-Hulman faculty members, and he seeks damages for breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, invasion of privacy, harassment and malice.

Rose-Hulman in response says Castelino was disciplined for cause and claims he “is a direct threat to the Rose-Hulman campus community and poses a threat to the safety of the members of the campus community.” The school alleges Castelino made numerous false allegations about his treatment while a student, including some that he recanted in a deposition. Rose-Hulman countersued Castelino, alleging defamation and abuse of process.

The case is Castelino v. Rose-Hulman, 2:17-cv-139.

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