United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING REQUEST TO COMPEL COMPLIANCE WITH
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT RE: DKT. NO. 99
ILLSTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is now before the court for consideration of plaintiff
Mendez's request to compel defendant prison officials to
comply with a settlement agreement executed in 2002. The
request will be denied because the court lacks jurisdiction
over the settlement agreement.
parties settled this case nearly 18 years ago. They embodied
the settlement terms in a written agreement signed in
February 2002 in which Mendez essentially agreed to dismiss
all claims with prejudice in exchange for $10, 000 and
continued medical treatment for his glaucoma. Docket No. 99-1
at 5. The agreement also mentioned a desire to have the
undersigned hear any judicial proceeding to enforce the
In the event of a judicial proceeding to enforce this
Agreement, the prevailing Party shall be entitled to recover
its reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in that
proceeding. The parties shall seek to have such a
proceeding heard by the Honorable Susan Illston of the
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.
Docket No. 99-1 at 9 (emphasis added). The agreement further
stated that it would be governed by the “laws of the
State of California.” Id. at 10.
Court then dismissed the case with prejudice on May 7, 2002.
Docket No. 81. The dismissal order did not mention the
retention of any jurisdiction by the court over disputes
arising from the settlement agreement, nor did the order
incorporate any term of the settlement agreement. The
“stipulation and order of dismissal” prepared by
the parties stated: “The parties hereby voluntarily
stipulate to the dismissal with prejudice of the
above-captioned action pursuant to Rule 41(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, and each party to bear his/her own
attorneys' fees and costs.” Docket No. 81 at 1-2.
That single sentence of text was followed by the phrase
“so stipulated” and the signatures of the
attorneys, and then the phrase “it is so ordered”
and the undersigned's signature. Id. at 2.
it has specifically retained jurisdiction, a district court
lacks authority to decide any dispute (e.g., a motion to
enforce the agreement) arising from a settlement agreement. A
district court retains jurisdiction over a settlement
agreement only if (1) the order specifically states that the
court retains jurisdiction over the settlement agreement, or
(2) the court incorporates the terms of the agreement in its
dismissal order. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 381 (1994). When either of these
situations arise, any breach of the settlement agreement is a
violation of a court order and provides the court the
ancillary jurisdiction necessary to enforce the order.
Id. Otherwise, “enforcement of the settlement
agreement is for state courts, unless there is some
independent basis for federal jurisdiction.”
Id. at 382.
the May 7, 2002 dismissal order did not explicitly retain
jurisdiction over the settlement agreement and did not
incorporate any terms of the agreement into the order. Docket
No. 81. The parties' aspirational statement in the
settlement agreement that they would “seek to have [an
enforcement] proceeding heard” by the undersigned falls
far short of giving the court jurisdiction to hear disputes
about the settlement agreement. See Kokkonen, 511
U.S. at 381; cf. Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d
1430, 1433 (9th Cir. 1995). The request to compel compliance
with the settlement agreement therefore is DENIED. Docket No.
may not file any more motions or requests in this case
seeking compliance with or other enforcement of the
settlement agreement. Mendez's sole judicial recourse, if
he believes the settlement agreement has been breached-a
matter on which the court does not express an opinion-is to
file a new action in state court for a breach of the
settlement agreement. See Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 382.
Mendez also remains free to file a new action in federal or
state court asserting a claim that his medical or eye care in
recent years has been deficient.
 The settlement agreement included
other terms, such as provisions for which doctor would be the
primary provider for Mendez and what should happen if that
doctor should need to cease providing care.
 In Hagestad, the Judge
overseeing the settlement conference stated orally during the
conference that he wished to maintain jurisdiction over
subsequent proceedings concerning the settlement.
Hagestad, 49 F.3d at 1433. Nonetheless, the Ninth
Circuit concluded that because the court's dismissal
order neither retained jurisdiction nor incorporated terms of