United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER ON POST-SETTLEMENT MOTIONS RE: ECF 99, 108,
128, 129, 131, 132, 136, 137
NATHANAEL M. COUSINS United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court are a tidal wave of motions filed after the 2016
settlement and dismissal of this copyright and trademark
infringement case. Plaintiff Petersen-Dean seeks to vacate
the dismissal, to enforce the settlement, and to enter
judgment (ECF 99, 137), while defendants oppose these
requests and seek to compel enforcement of the settlement
through arbitration (ECF 108). The central question for
resolving all the motions is whether this Court possesses
jurisdictional authority to enforce the settlement agreement.
Because I conclude that the Court lacks jurisdiction, I
decline to wade into the deeper waters of interpreting and
enforcing the parties' settlement agreement.
the most relevant settlement-related events are summarized
here. On March 24, 2016, I referred the case to Magistrate
Judge Sallie Kim in San Francisco for a settlement
conference. Judge Kim diligently facilitated settlement
communications among the parties, as documented at ECF 57,
59, 79, and 88. A transcript of the settlement proceedings
before Judge Kim on August 11, 2016, is filed under seal at
ECF 108-5, and in part is publicly described in the
declaration of Jim Petersen at ECF 101. On August 25, 2016,
Petersen-Dean filed a settlement status report. ECF 82. That
report stated that this matter had mostly settled but awaited
approval by defendants Jeffrey Maxfield and Bryce Robicheau.
“Upon execution of said document by the remaining
Defendants all of the actions will be dismissed in their
entirety.” ECF 82 at p. 2. On September 14, 2016,
counsel for all parties reported to me that the case settled
and that a dismissal would be filed that same day. ECF 92. As
promised, later that day the parties filed a
“Stipulation of Dismissal With Prejudice”
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). The Stipulation of
Dismissal was accompanied by a proposed order. ECF 93-1. The
proposed order requested that “the instant matter is
dismissed with prejudice as to Defendants JAJ Roofing, Inc.
dba Citadel Roofing and Solar; Dieter Folk; and Wendy
Zubillaga.” Id. I granted the proposed order.
ECF 94. The Stipulation of Dismissal did not recount the
terms of settlement and did not ask the Court to retain
jurisdiction to enforce the settlement. And the Order of
Dismissal, ECF 94, did not retain jurisdiction.
after the settlement and dismissal, the parties returned to
litigation in this Court. Now before the Court are ECF 99
(Petersen-Dean's motion to vacate dismissal, motion for
writ of attachment and right to attach order, and motion to
enforce settlement agreement); ECF 108-3 (Defendant's
opposition to ECF 99 and counter-motion to compel arbitration
of settlement); ECF 128 (Petersen-Dean's motion for leave
to file supplemental declaration of George Milionis); ECF 129
(Petersen-Dean's motion to file under seal); ECF 131
(Stipulation to file Milionis declaration); ECF 132 (motion
for hearing); ECF 136 (motion to seal portions of
Petersen-Dean's motion for entry of judgment and
enforcement of settlement agreement); and ECF 137
(Petersen-Dean's motion to enforce settlement and entry
of judgment per settlement agreement). On February 13, 2018,
I issued an Order to Show Cause Re: Jurisdiction. ECF 118. I
ordered the parties to show cause why the Court has
jurisdiction to consider the motions at ECF 99 and 108 asking
the Court to enforce the settlement agreement. This Order
complements the Order to Show Cause at ECF 118.
motion at ECF 137 (to enforce settlement and enter judgment)
was noticed to Judge Kim. But under Civil Local Rule 7-1(b),
motions must be directed to the Judge to whom the action is
assigned, except as that Judge may otherwise order. As this
action is assigned to me, not Judge Kim, I assess ECF 137 in
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction;
“[t]hey possess only that power authorized by
Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by
judicial decree.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, “[i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies
outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Id.; Chandler v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir.
post-settlement motions before this Court, the only assertion
of jurisdiction is that the Court should continue or reopen
the jurisdiction it exercised over the underlying federal
copyright and trademark case. There is no claim that the
motions to enforce the settlement agreement independently
raise a federal question (they do not) or are between parties
with diverse citizenship (they are not). The question
presented is whether federal subject matter jurisdiction may
be reestablished after settlement even when the parties did
not ask, and the Court did not retain jurisdiction at the
time of dismissal.
general, ‘[e]nforcement of [a] settlement agreement . .
. whether through award of damages or decree of specific
performance, is more than just a continuation or renewal of
the dismissed suit, and hence requires its own basis for
jurisdiction.'” Alvarado v. Table Mountain
Rancheria, 509 F.3d 1008, 1017 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 378). But “a federal
court has jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement in a
dismissed case when the dismissal order incorporates the
settlement terms, or the court has retained jurisdiction over
the settlement contract” and a party alleges a
violation of the settlement. Id. Under those
circumstances, a breach of the agreement is a violation of
the court's order, and the court has jurisdiction to
enforce the agreement. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 381;
e.g., Nordstrom v. Ryan, 2019 WL 2304039, at *2 (D.
Ariz. May 15, 2019), reconsideration denied, 2019 WL 2303321
(D. Ariz. May 30, 2019).
the exceptions in Kokkonen applies here. The parties
in their Stipulation of Dismissal did not ask the Court to
retain jurisdiction and did not expressly incorporate the
terms of the settlement agreement. ECF 93. The Court's
dismissal order accordingly did not retain jurisdiction. ECF
Court finds that the post-settlement disputes presented here
are of the same type that were dismissed in
Kokkonen, O'Connor v. Colvin, 70 F.3d
530 (9th Cir. 1995), and Warner v. Cate, No.
11-cv-05039 YGR, 2017 WL 5560651 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 20, 2017).
Here, as in those cases, the Court lacks jurisdiction to
enforce the settlement agreement.
the arguments made by Petersen-Dean in favor of jurisdiction
is that Judge Kim retained jurisdiction as part of the
settlement agreement. I am not persuaded that this is
sufficient for this Court to exert jurisdiction now.
First, as a legal question the settlement judge
“retaining jurisdiction” is not one of the
exceptions to limited jurisdiction identified by the Supreme
Court in Kokkonen. 511 U.S. at 381. There, the
Supreme Court identified two ways that the presiding judge
could maintain jurisdiction: (1) retaining jurisdiction as
part of the order of dismissal, or (2) incorporating the
terms of the settlement into the dismissal order. I am not
persuaded that I should expand Kokkonen to apply to
terms in a settlement agreement that are not
incorporated into the order of dismissal. Second, as
a factual matter, Judge Kim did not retain jurisdiction to
enforce the settlement agreement here. What Judge Kim said
was: “And the Federal Court will retain jurisdiction
over the stipulated judgment.” ECF 108-5 at 5:16-17.
This is something less than retaining jurisdiction to
interpret and enforce the entire settlement agreement, which
is what both parties ask the Court to do now.
addition, the Court is not persuaded that plaintiff's
motion to set aside the dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 60(b)(6) (for “any other reason that
justifies relief) is timely or is needed to accomplish
justice. A motion under Rule 60(b) must be made within a
“reasonable time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). Here,
the dismissal was entered September 14, 2016, and plaintiffs
motion to set aside the dismissal was filed January 17, 2018,
which is more than 16 months later. Rule 60(b)(6) is a
“grand reservoir of equitable power, ”
Harrell v. DCS Equip. Leasing Corp.,951 F.2d 1453,
1458 (5th Cir. 1992), and it affords the Court the discretion
and power “to vacate judgments whenever such action is
appropriate to accomplish justice.” Gonzalez v.
Crosby,545 U.S. 524, 542 (2005). The decision to grant
Rule 60(b)(6) relief is a “case-by-case inquiry that
requires the trial court to intensively balance numerous
factors, including the competing policies of finality of
judgments and the incessant command of the court's
conscience that justice be done in light of all the
facts.” Phelps v. Alameida,569 F.3d ...