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Burton v. McDonald

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 2, 2017

HARRISON L. BURTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE McDONALD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J NEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding pro se. Plaintiff consented to proceed before the undersigned for all purposes. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). On October 27, 2017, plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate. Plaintiff claims he was transferred to R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility ("RJD") on or about September 26, 2012, and was provided a religious diet, purportedly pursuant to the settlement agreement entered in this action, until August 20, 2017, when he was removed from the diet roster at RJD without explanation. Plaintiff claims he presented the settlement agreement to various officials at RJD to no avail. In his accompanying declaration, plaintiff suggests that the religious meals became inconsistent after he filed lawsuits against prison officials in the Southern District of California, suggesting that prison staff may be retaliating against plaintiff for his protected conduct of filing civil rights complaints in violation of the First Amendment. (ECF No. 19 at 8.) As set forth below, the petition is denied.

         II. Background

         This civil rights action was closed on November 7, 2012, following an early settlement conference and voluntary dismissal of this action with prejudice. In the underlying complaint, plaintiff sought relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-l, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUTPA"). His claims arose from his alleged inability to practice his religion at High Desert State Prison based on his allegations that he was denied access to Jumu'ah services and Halal meals. Plaintiff only sought injunctive relief.

         III. Jurisdiction

         The first question is whether federal jurisdiction exists. Generally, when a district court dismisses an action with prejudice, federal jurisdiction ends and a dispute arising under the settlement agreement is a separate contract dispute that requires its own independent basis for jurisdiction. Kelly v. Wengler. 822 F.3d 1085, 1094 (9th Cir. 2016). However, courts do have the authority to enforce a settlement agreement while the litigation is still pending or when the settlement agreement is referenced in the dismissal order or the court has retained jurisdiction to enforce the agreement. In re City Equities Anaheim. Ltd.. 22 F.3d 954, 957 (9th Cir. 1994); Kelly, 822 F.3d at 1085. But such ancillary jurisdiction exists only if the settlement agreement was "made part of the order of dismissal, " by retaining jurisdiction over the agreement, "or by incorporating the terms of the settlement agreement in the order." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 381 (1994).

         Here, the parties entered into a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice, and this action was terminated on November 7, 2012. The court did not retain jurisdiction. The order of dismissal does not append a settlement agreement, incorporate the terms of the settlement, or even reference a settlement agreement. (ECFNo. 17.) Rather, the stipulation stated that the parties[1]"stipulate that the above-entitled action shall be dismissed with prejudice." (Id. at 1.) Therefore, plaintiffs motion is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

         IV. Motion Under Rule 60(b)

         But even assuming this court has jurisdiction, plaintiffs filing fails. Rule 60(b) provides as follows:

Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding. On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct ...

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