In a motion filed last week and entered into the record on Tuesday, the nine plaintiffs have asked US District Judge Keith Watkins to recuse himself. Judge Watkins received his bachelors degree from Auburn in 1973 and his law degree from Alabama in 1976.
After 30 years of private practice, Watkins was appointed by George W. Bush to the Middle District Court of Alabama in 2005.
The filing and a pair of accompanying affidavits from one of the plaintiffs and an Auburn City Council member state that they don’t think Judge Watkins can be impartial because he’s not only an Auburn graduate, he’s a big Auburn football fan, too:
Auburn alumni are well-known statewide for being among the most enthusiastic alumni anywhere, and most enthusiastic football fans anywhere. Indeed Auburn even has a national reputation, especially in light of Auburn's 2010 National Football Championship season, in which Auburn football fans are known nationally for their enthusiasm. Presumably, and on information and belief, your Honor, as a 1973 graduate of Auburn, is also an enthusiastic football fan, who regularly attends games.
The above-captioned lawsuit directly challenges Auburn University's overall racial discrimination policies as well as it challenges race discrimination in Auburn University's Athletic Department. This could well be construed as a challenge to Auburn's football and basketball programs, both of which are referred to in paragraph 22 of the Amended complaint. Said paragraph challenges the inconsistencies (and disparities) between the number of African-American football and basketball players, on the one hand (75% in football, and 95% in basketball) versus the number of African-American employees in the Athletic Department, on the other hand (only 1-2%). This challenge is likely more than enough to upset a loyal Auburn alumnus and fan, which we understand your Honor to be.
In other words, the plaintiffs have some big boy issues with how the university has conducted its affairs with regards to its treatment of African-American employees, particularly in the Athletic Dept. Since they know Judge Watkins is “all in,” the plaintiffs’ allegations might upset him and cause him to lose his impartiality.
Sounds like a good enough reason for him to step down.