United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND REQUEST FOR
MONETARY SANCTIONS AS TO RAUL VILLANEUVA BE GRANTED IN PART
AND DENIED IN PART (ECF No. 161) OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE
WITHIN FOURTEEN (14) DAYS
Parlier Unified School District and Gerardo Alvarez
(collectively, the “District Defendants”) have
moved to enforce a settlement agreement with Raul Villanueva
(“Mr. Villanueva”) and for monetary sanctions
against said party in the amount of $4, 891.50. (ECF No.
161). The settlement was negotiated in off-the-record
discussions with a magistrate judge, and the parties assented
to the terms of the agreement on the record in open court.
Mr. Villanueva opposes the motion, arguing that he rescinded
his acceptance of the settlement agreement because he felt
coerced by the settlement conference magistrate judge to
accept the offer and because he was not in his right state of
mind when he agreed to the settlement terms. (ECF No. 163).
Mr. Villanueva also argues that he should not be sanctioned
for his refusal to execute the written settlement agreement
because he has not demonstrated reprehensible conduct
warranting the imposition of sanctions and because the
sanction sought by the District Defendants is tantamount to
an award of attorney fees.
reviewing the relevant law and facts, the Court recommends
that the District Judge grant in part and deny in part the
District Defendants' motion by enforcing the settlement
agreement but not awarding sanctions.
Villanueva was employed by Parlier Unified School District
(“PUSD”) as the head custodian of Chavez
Elementary. Mr. Villanueva is one of a number of former
employees of PUSD in this lawsuit who are alleging, among
other things, retaliation and harassment for political
affiliation and the exercise of protected speech in violation
of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, Mr.
Villanueva's allegations in the Fourth Amended Complaint
are as follows:
Mr. Raul Villanueva announced his candidacy for Parlier
Unified School Board in 2014. Mr. Villanueva made it
publically known that he was endorsed by Mr. Juan Sandoval.
On or about November of 2014, Gerardo Alvarez requested to
meet with Mr. Villanueva. Mr. Villanueva requested to be
accompanied by Mr. Sandoval. Mr. Alvarez refused to meet with
Mr. Villanueva with Mr. Sandoval present.
On the day of the Parlier Unified School Board Election, Mr.
Alvarez reassigned Raul Villanueva to a remote school site
location (Exhibit G- Parlier Unified School District Notice
of Involuntary Transfer). Mr. Villanueva has been on medical
leave for stress and anxiety since November of 2014.
Mr. Alvarez has distributed flyers and political propaganda
depicting Mr. Raul Villanueva as supporter of criminal
activity (See Exhibit D - Flyer defaming the Plaintiffs). The
flyer distributed by Mr. Alvarez during Parlier Board
Meetings accused Mr. Raul Villanueva of supporting criminal
activity alleged against Juan Sandoval, Gudelia Sandoval and
Mr. Villanueva is accused of promoting their political
elections with school district equipment for mass production.
Furthermore, the flyer alleges that “Villanueva friends
and family members take home hundreds of thousands of
dollars, ” and misappropriate school funds.
(ECF No. 67 at 9).
26, 2017, Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone conducted a
settlement conference in this action. (ECF No. 118). Counsel
for the Plaintiffs, Jeff Reich and Alexia Kirkland, and
counsels for the Defendants, Mart Benjamin Oller, IV and
Justin Campagne, were present. Id. Mr. Villanueva
was represented by his counsel, Alexia Kirkland (“Ms.
Kirkland”). During the conference, Mr. Villanueva
agreed to settle his claims against the District Defendants
for $40, 000.00. The terms of the settlement were placed on
the record, (ECF No. 118), and on July 28, 2017, Judge Boone
issued an order directing Mr. Villanueva to file
dispositional documents within forty-five days, (ECF Nos.
119, 131). The settlement was put on the record as follows:
THE COURT: All right. If I could have appearances, beginning
with the plaintiff and your client, since we're dividing
MS. KIRKLAND: Good afternoon, Your Honor. Alexia Kirkland
appearing on behalf of Raul Villanueva, present at counsel
THE COURT: All right.
MR. OLLER: Good afternoon, Your Honor. Mart Oller appearing
on behalf of the defendants, Parlier Unified School District,
Parlier Unified School District Board of Trustees, and
defendant, Gerardo Alvarez, who is present here at counsel
THE COURT: All right. Mr. Oller, why don't I have you set
forth the terms. Ms. Kirkland, I will have you listen
carefully. Mr. Villanueva, I'll ask you if that is also,
in fact, the terms of the agreement. So, Mr. Oller.
MR. OLLER: Thank you, Your Honor. In exchange for payment by
Parlier Unified School District on behalf of the defendants
that I just listed in the amount of $40, 000 made payable to
Mr. Villanueva and his attorney, Ms. Kirkland, Mr. Villanueva
will sign a release of all claims as to all known and unknown
claims and will waive the provisions of Civil Code,
California Civil Code § 1542. The release will indicate
that there's no admission of liability on the part of the
defendants who are involved in the release. Each side will
bear their own costs and fees, including any attorney fees.
And this is subject to approval by the Parlier Unified School
District Board and we believe that all of this can be
accomplished within the next 30 days as far as the approval
and then, of course, it will take some time to then have the
settlement release signed and then the exchange of the money.
So overall, it might take as much as days to get the check in
hand, but as far as the Board approval we think that can be
accomplished, at least presented to the Board for approval
within 30 days.
THE COURT: All right. Ms. Kirkland, is that your
understanding of the terms in the agreement?
MS. KIRKLAND: Yes, Your Honor. That's an accurate
representation of the terms of the agreement - THE COURT: All
right. And - MS. KIRKLAND: -- between the parties.
THE COURT: All right Sorry, Ms. Kirkland. Sorry to interrupt.
And, Mr. Villanueva, is that, in fact, what you understand
the agreement to be?
MR. VILLANUEVA: Yes.
THE COURT: All right. All right. So the Court notes that this
case as to this plaintiff only has settled. The Court will
vacate any and all dates related to this plaintiff only and
will order that dispositional documents be filed as to this
plaintiff only, let's say within 45 days of today's
date. And that should be it as to this plaintiff only. ...