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Gonzalez v. Razo

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 28, 2019

MANUEL ANTONIO GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
J. RAZO, et al., Defendants.

         FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, RECOMMENDING THAT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT, FULL PAYMENT TO ATTORNEY, AND/OR ALLOW PLAINTIFF WITHDRAW SETTLEMENT AND PROCEED WITH TRIAL BE DENIED ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST TO FILE DISCOVERY (ECF NOS. 149 & 158) OBJECTIONS, IF ANY, DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS

         Manuel Gonzalez is a state prisoner, and is the plaintiff in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which includes state law claims. This case was closed on January 30, 2019 (ECF No. 145), based on a stipulation for voluntary dismissal with prejudice, which was filed on January 29, 2019 (ECF No. 144). Now before the Court is Plaintiff's pro se Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement, Full Payment to Attorney, and/or to Allow Plaintiff to Withdraw Settlement and Proceed with Trial. (ECF No. 53).

         I. Plaintiff's Motion

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 24, 2019, the parties agreed to settle the case for $16, 500, with the settlement funds being paid directly to Plaintiff's counsel. After the settlement agreement was signed, defense counsel presented a new settlement agreement, which allowed deductions from the settlement amount for debts and liens, with the remaining amount to be sent to Plaintiff's counsel. Plaintiff did not sign this agreement.

         Plaintiff also alleges that the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility failed to comply with an order from the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, which reduced his restitution to $5, 000. This failure to comply is the reason Plaintiff requested that the full settlement amount be sent to his counsel. Plaintiff asks the Court to order R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility to comply with the order from the Superior Court of California.

         Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the settlement payment has not yet been paid, and requests a telephonic conference to discuss the problem with the payment process.

         II. Defendants' Response

         On March 21, 2019, Defendants filed a response. (ECF No. 154). Defendants allege that, under the terms of the settlement agreement, the payment was to be made to Plaintiff's inmate trust account. Defense counsel explained to Plaintiff's counsel that changing the payee to Plaintiff's counsel would require a new settlement agreement or an addendum. “Ultimately, the parties proceeded with the settlement agreement as written, and placed the material terms of the agreement on the record.” (Id. at 2).

         “After the settlement conference, defense counsel contacted Mr. Goff and offered to draft an addendum to the settlement agreement to direct the settlement funds to Mr. Goff's client trust account, rather than to Plaintiff's inmate trust account. Defense counsel and Mr. Goff both signed the addendum, but Plaintiff refused to sign.” (Id.) (citations omitted).

         “Plaintiff refused to sign the addendum because he claimed that his restitution balance was inaccurate.” (Id.). “Defense counsel promptly investigated the issue, obtained a copy of the order, and forwarded it to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for its consideration.” (Id.). Plaintiff's inmate trust account statement was updated to reflect that the amount Plaintiff owed for restitution was an estimated amount of $4, 454.56.

         “Defendants do not oppose Plaintiff's motion insofar as Plaintiff moves to enforce the settlement agreement as written, including the provision whereby Plaintiff must pay his restitution balance (which has been updated).” (Id.).

         “However, if Plaintiff would like the settlement funds to be directed to Mr. Goff's client trust account-which is contrary to the terms in the settlement agreement-then Defendants require that either: (A) the Court issue an order directing CDCR to pay the settlement funds to Mr. Goff; or (B) Plaintiff sign the addendum to the settlement agreement.” (Id. at 3).[1]

         III. Plaintiff's Replies

         On April 4, 2019, Plaintiff filed his reply. (ECF No. 156). On April 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a supplemental reply. (ECF No. 158).

         In his reply, Plaintiff alleges that, on March 12, 2019, in retaliation for filing this case, he was transferred to Kern Valley State Prison to attend a court proceeding. However, there was no court proceeding. Additionally, he was placed on an extremely violent prison yard.

         Plaintiff also argues that the settlement amount was too low, and that the case should proceed to trial, or the settlement amount should be above $100, 000 and include full coverage medical insurance for life. Plaintiff's family told him about the public average for settlements in similar cases, and the amount was significantly higher than what Plaintiff settled for. Additionally, Plaintiff was seen by a “Neuro ...


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