Skip to main content


Reset A A Font size: Print

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Lenora KINCHEN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ST. JOHN'S UNIVERSITY, Conrado Bobby Gempesaw, Bernard M. Tracey, as Executive Vice President of Mission, Kathleen McElroy, as Senior Counsel, Joseph Olivia, as General Counsel, Cynthia Fico Simpson, as Director of Human Resources Services, Kathryn Hutchinson, as Vice President of Student Affairs, Denise Hopkins, as Executive Director of Career Services, Paulette Gonzalez, as Senior Director of Employer Relations, Defendants-Appellees.*


Decided: December 09, 2020

PRESENT: DENNY CHIN, RAYMOND J. LOHIER, JR., MICHAEL H. PARK, Circuit Judges. FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Lenora Kinchen, pro se, Rye, New York. FOR DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES: Barbara A. Gross, Littler Mendelson, P.C., New York, New York.


Plaintiff-appellant Lenora Kinchen, proceeding pro se, appeals from a judgment entered August 2, 2019, dismissing her claims against her former employer, defendant-appellee Saint John's University (“St. John's”) and several coworkers, and denying her motion for recusal of the district judge. In her amended complaint, Kinchen asserted claims under federal and state law, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., and the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq. In a memorandum and order entered March 26, 2019, the district court dismissed the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The district court twice granted Kinchen an opportunity to file a second amended complaint. Kinchen declined to amend, and instead twice moved for the district judge's recusal. The district court denied the recusal motions and eventually entered judgment dismissing the amended complaint. We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history, and the issues on appeal.

We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Forest Park Pictures v. Universal Television Network, Inc. 683 F.3d 424, 429 (2d Cir. 2012). The complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

We hold that Kinchen has waived any challenge to the merits of the district court's dismissal of her complaint by failing to raise any such argument in her appellate briefs. The briefs do not cite legal authority, nor do they discuss her substantive claims -- i.e., alleged violations of various federal statutes and state law -- except “obliquely and in passing,” which is insufficient. Gerstenbluth v. Credit Suisse Secs. (USA) LLC, 728 F.3d 139, 142 n.4 (2d Cir. 2013); see also Norton v. Sam's Club, 145 F.3d 114, 117 (2d Cir. 1998) (“Issues not sufficiently argued in the briefs are considered waived and normally will not be addressed on appeal.”); Moates v. Barkley, 147 F.3d 207, 209 (2d Cir. 1998) (court “normally will not[ ] decide issues that a party fails to raise in ․ her appellate brief”).

While Kinchen preserved her arguments relating to bias by seeking the district judge's recusal and reiterating her arguments on appeal, we reject the arguments as meritless. A judge must recuse herself “in any proceeding in which [her] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). In evaluating whether a judge should have recused herself, we consider the allegations of bias, as well as the judge's “rulings on and conduct regarding them,” and ask whether “an objective, disinterested observer[,] fully informed of the underlying facts, [would] entertain significant doubt that justice would be done absent recusal.” United States v. Amico, 486 F.3d 764, 775 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Lovaglia, 954 F.2d 811, 815 (2d Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Claims of judicial bias “must be based on extrajudicial matters, and adverse rulings, without more, will rarely suffice to provide a reasonable basis for questioning a judge's impartiality.” Chen v. Chen Qualified Settlement Fund, 552 F.3d 218, 227 (2d Cir. 2009). Here, Kinchen's allegations of bias are based principally on the district court's rulings, and she has not identified any matter that would cause an impartial observer to entertain significant doubt that justice would be done absent recusal. Kinchen's other allegations -- that the judge had participated in a speaking engagement at St. John's and maintained professional relationships with St. John's alumni -- also raise no inference of bias. See, e.g., In re Aguinda, 241 F.3d 194, 203 (2d Cir. 2001) (a judge's participation in programs sponsored by bar associations or law schools does not require recusal).

We have reviewed Kinchen's remaining arguments on appeal and conclude they are without merit. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

Copied to clipboard