United States District Court, D. Kansas
SUSAN M. MILES, Plaintiff,
UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 500, KANSAS CITY, KANSAS and VALERIE CASTILLO, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree United States District Judge
court commends parties who can resolve their litigated
differences by settlement. But settlements must be the
product of the parties knowingly and voluntarily agreeing to
resolve their dispute. Here, plaintiff Susan M. Miles has
filed a lawsuit in our court. She has sued her former
employer-defendant Unified School District No. 500, Kansas
City, Kansas (“School District”)-and her former
supervisor-defendant Valerie Castillo. She asserts claims
under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”), and certain Kansas state employment
laws. See Doc. 1.
response, defendants have filed a Motion to Enforce
Settlement (Doc. 6). It asks the court to enforce a putative
settlement agreement the parties supposedly agreed to before
plaintiff filed this case. Defendants' motion also asks
the court to dismiss this case. In a separate motion,
defendants contend that plaintiff failed to honor Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b)(2) and thus the court should
sanction her. See Doc. 13.
reasons explained below, the court denies both motions. In
part I, the court explains why it denies defendants'
Motion to Enforce Settlement. And, in part II, the court
explains why it denies the sanctions motion.
Motion to Enforce Settlement
their Motion to Enforce Settlement, defendants ask the court
to enter an order enforcing a purported settlement agreement.
On January 9, 2017, defendants assert, plaintiff and the
School District entered a Mutual Release and Separation
Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”). As part of
this agreement, plaintiff voluntarily resigned her position
with the School District and released all claims against the
School District and any of its employees- including Ms.
Castillo-for any claims arising from her employment.
argue that the court “has the power to summarily
enforce a settlement agreement while a case is pending before
the court.” Doc. 7 at 4 (citing United States v.
Hardage, 982 F.2d 1491, 1496 (10th Cir. 1993)). But
United States v. Hardage involves a different set of
facts than presents itself here. In that case, the United
States sued several waste generators and transporters seeking
to require them to clean up a Superfund Site. Id. at
1493. The waste generators and transporters, in turn,
asserted a Third-Party Complaint against a variety of
third-party defendants. Id. While the case was
pending before the court, the government settled with the
waste generators and transporters and, likewise, the waste
generators and transporters settled with the third-party
defendants. Id. The parties asked the court to enter
a consent decree but one third-party defendant claimed that
the settlement between the waste generators and transporters
and it did not bind it because the third-party defendant
liaison counsel-who was the person who agreed to the
settlement-did not have the power to negotiate on that
third-party defendant's behalf. Id. The district
court disagreed and entered an order approving the consent
decree without holding an evidentiary hearing to determine
whether the third-party defendant liaison counsel had the
authority to agree to a settlement agreement on behalf of a
third-party defendant. Id. at 1494.
Tenth Circuit then reversed the district court's
decision, holding that the district court should have held an
evidentiary hearing to determine whether the settlement
agreement was enforceable. Id. at 1497. The Circuit
explained, “A trial court has the power to summarily
enforce a settlement agreement entered into by the litigants
while the litigation is pending before it.”
Id. (emphasis added). In contrast, defendants, here,
assert that the parties entered the Settlement Agreement
before this litigation began. Doc. 7 at 1
(“Accordingly, Defendants respectfully request an order
from this Court enforcing the settlement which Plaintiff and
Defendants entered prior to this litigation . . .
.” (emphasis added)).
Supreme Court case explains why the court cannot enforce the
settlement agreement alleged here. In Kokkonen v.
Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375
(1994), the parties settled a lawsuit arising from the
termination of an agency agreement while that suit was
pending before the district court. Id. at 376. The
parties then submitted a Stipulation and Order of Dismissal
with prejudice under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41, and the district judge
approved it. Id. at 376-77. So, the case was closed.
Id. at 377. Shortly afterward, a dispute arose over
the settlement agreement and the defendant filed a motion to
enforce the settlement agreement with the district court
where the case was pending. Id. Plaintiff opposed
the motion, arguing that the district court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction. Id. The district court granted
the motion to enforce, explaining that it had
“'inherent power'” to enter such an
order. Id. (quoting district court decision). The
Ninth Circuit affirmed the ruling because the
“ʻdistrict court has jurisdiction to decide the
enforcement motion under its inherent supervisory
power.'” Id. (alterations omitted)
(quoting Ninth Circuit opinion).
Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the Ninth
Circuit. Id. The Court explained its reason for
reversing the Circuit, beginning with this well-established
principle: “Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by
Constitution and statute.” Id. The Court held
that no Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, federal statute, or
constitutional provision authorizes a court to enforce a
settlement agreement after the parties to the case have
dismissed it. Id. at 378.
defendant argued that the district court had “ancillary
jurisdiction” to enforce the settlement agreement-that
is, jurisdiction over matters that are incidental to matters
properly before the court. Id. The Supreme Court
disagreed, holding that “ancillary jurisdiction”
provides no basis for the court to enforce the settlement
agreement at issue in Kokkonen. Id. at 379.
Earlier Supreme Court cases, Kokkonen explained,
limited federal courts' ancillary jurisdiction to two
situations: (1) permitting a court to dispose of claims that
are “interdependent;” and (2) allowing a court to
manage its own proceedings, defend its authority, and enforce
its orders. Id. at 379-80. Kokkonen did not
qualify for the first scenario because the dispute over the
settlement agreement involved completely different facts than
those relied on by the underlying claim. Id. at 380.
Specifically, the original dispute arose from the termination
of the agency agreement; the settlement dispute arose from
obligations purportedly imposed by a settlement agreement.
didn't qualify under the second scenario either because
the settlement agreement did not invoke or affect the
district court's authority in any way. Id. at
380-81. The parties already had dismissed the case, so the
court lacked any need to manage its own proceedings.
Id. at 380. And because the court never had
referenced or incorporated the settlement agreement in an
order, plaintiff's alleged breach of the settlement
agreement did not implicate the court's need to defend
its authority or enforce one of its orders. Id. at
381. So, the Supreme Court concluded, the district court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the settlement
the court finds itself in a situation much like the court in
Kokkonen. In both cases, the party seeking to
enforce the settlement claims the court may use its inherent
power to enforce the settlement. And neither party claimed
that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a statute in the
United States Code, or any provision in the Constitution
authorizes enforcement. The court concludes, as did
Kokkonen, that it cannot use its inherent power to
enforce the Settlement Agreement because failing to enforce
it would not invoke or affect the court's authority in
any way. Nor is the dispute over the Settlement Agreement
interdependent with any claim already pending before the
court. The Settlement Agreement claimed by defendants was not
formed while the parties' case was pending before our
court. So, to enforce it would not help the court manage the
proceedings pending before the court. Nor will declining to
enforce the purported agreement threaten the court's
capacity to manage its proceedings. Likewise, not even
defendants claim that the Settlement Agreement is part of
some order entered by the court, much like the agreement in
Kokkonen. Finally, the parties' dispute about
enforcing the purported agreement is unrelated to
plaintiff's underlying claims in the case. In short, the
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the
response to defendants' motion suggests a different
route. She argues that the court should treat defendants'
motion as a motion for summary judgment because
defendants' motion asks the court, in effect, to dismiss
the case. But, she observes, it relies on materials outside
the Complaint. Doc. 8 at 4. In their Reply, defendants merely
assert that they haven't made a motion for summary
judgment and simply reiterate that the court has the power to
enforce a settlement agreement summarily. Doc. 12 at 2.