United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding with counsel in an action
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On June 7, 2019, a
settlement conference was held before Magistrate Judge
Kendall J. Newman and the parties reached a verbal settlement
as to this case (and two others). ECF No. 54. The parties
were obligated to file dispositional documents within thirty
days of that date. Id. A stipulation for voluntary
dismissal with prejudice, signed by plaintiff and attorney
Derrek Lee of the California Office of Attorney General, was
filed on June 10, 2019. ECF No. 55. The case was closed the
next day. ECF No. 56.
plaintiff has filed two pro se motions - one for
reconsideration (ECF No. 57) and another “to vacate
order to dismiss as untimely” (ECF No. 59) - both of
which argue that: (1) plaintiff was misled by the court
during settlement proceedings; (2) that the written
settlement terms are “without
merit”; and (3) that defendants prematurely moved
to dismiss this action before the terms of settlement were
complete. Chijioke Ikonte - plaintiff's counsel who
represented him in settlement - did not sign either motion.
Defendants Bobbala, Bodenhamer, Moghaddam, and Nicolai filed
an opposition to the motion to vacate order to dismiss. ECF
No. 60. Defendant Sahota filed a joinder to the opposition.
ECF No. 61.
is well settled that a district court has the equitable power
to enforce summarily an agreement to settle a case pending
before it.” Callie v. Near, 829 F.2d 888, 890
(9th Cir. 1987). “Assessing the validity of a
settlement agreement . . . is a question of state contract
law.” Golden v. Cal. Emergency Physicians Med.
Grp., 782 F.3d 1083, 1087 (9th Cir. 2015)
(“Typically, the construction and enforcement of
settlement agreements are governed by principles of local law
which apply to interpretation of contracts generally.”
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Under
California law, a valid contract requires parties capable of
contracting, consent, a lawful object, and consideration.
Cal. Civ. Code § 1550; Lopez v. Charles Schwab &
Co., Inc., 118 Cal.App.4th 1224, 1230 (Cal.Ct.App.
2004). “[U]nless a writing is required by the statute of
frauds, oral settlement agreements are enforceable in the
same manner as oral agreements in general.”
Motion for Reconsideration
motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent
highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is
presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear
error, or if there is an intervening change in the
controlling law.” 389 Orange St. Partners v.
Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999). A motion for
reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or
present evidence for the first time when they could
reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.”
Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d
877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000).
Motion for Reconsideration
motion for reconsideration should be denied. This case was
closed when plaintiff signed, along with defendants, a
stipulation for voluntary dismissal with prejudice under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41. ECF No. 55. Plaintiff now
seeks “reconsideration” of the “notice of
voluntary dismissal” - a text only entry indicating
that this case was closed based on the stipulation. ECF No.
56. There is neither newly discovered evidence, clear error
on the part of the court, nor an intervening change in the
controlling law. Indeed, there was no order of the court
closing the case. See Pedrina v. Han Kuk Chun, 987
F.2d 608, 610 (9th Cir. 1993) (“The language of Rule
41(a)(1) is unequivocal. It permits a plaintiff to dismiss an
action ‘without order of court.'”) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)). If a motion for reconsideration is
one seeking a “substantive change of mind by the court,
” see Tripati v. Henman, 845 F.2d 205, 206 n.1
(9th Cir. 1988), then it is inapposite here.
Motion to Vacate
motion to vacate should also be denied. He asks the court to
“vacate its order to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P 41 as
untimely.” ECF No. 59 at 1. As noted supra,
this action was dismissed pursuant to a stipulation which
plaintiff signed. There is no order to vacate.
in his motion plaintiff states that he signed under the
misapprehension that “[s]ettlement was achieved.”
Id. He claims that the written terms drafted by the
defendants are “significantly meritless and not what
was promised at the verbal settlement.” Id. He
does not, however, explain how the verbal and written terms
differ or how the latter are “meritless.” Nor has
plaintiff offered a valid rationale, under local contract
law, for attacking the verbal settlement reached on June 7,
2019. There was an oral settlement agreement before Judge
Newman. See ECF No. 62 at 20-22. There is no
indication that plaintiff was incapable of contracting.
See Cal. Civ. Code § 1556 (“All persons
are capable of contracting, except minors, persons of unsound
mind, and persons deprived of civil rights.”). There
was, as the record indicates, consent. ECF No. 62 at 20-22.
And plaintiff cannot reasonably argue the absence of either
lawful object or consideration. Resolution of pending
litigation is a lawful reason to contract. See Stewart v.
Preston Pipeline Inc., 134 Cal.App.4th 1565, 1586 (2005)
(settlement has lawful ...