United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree United States District Judge
Order decides two pending motions in this closed case: (1)
plaintiffs' Motion for Order (Doc. 75), and (2)
defendant's Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 78). On July 24
and 26, 2018, pro se plaintiffs submitted two separate
letters to the court. Docs. 74, 75. Although the court was
not able to understand precisely what plaintiffs' letters
sought, it appeared that plaintiffs were asking the court to
set aside the parties' Stipulation of Dismissal (Doc.
73), because, plaintiffs contend, they never consented to it.
See, e.g., Doc. 75 at 1 (“We ask the court to
intervene on this matter due to the misrepresentation that[ ]
has occurred, and our forged signature placed onto documents
without our consent or knowledge.”). The court thus
directed the Clerk to docket one of the letters as a motion.
Doc. 75. Defendant filed a Response to plaintiffs' Motion
(Doc. 77), refuting plaintiffs' allegations of
misrepresentation and forgery. Also, defendant filed a Motion
for Sanctions (Doc. 78). It seeks sanctions against
plaintiffs under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 11 for
submitting letters to the court that lack any factual basis.
September 27, 2018, the court held a hearing on the two
pending motions. Plaintiffs appeared pro se at the hearing.
Defendant appeared through counsel. Also, a corporate
representative for defendant attended the hearing with
defendant's counsel. After the hearing, defendant filed
under seal two confidential Settlement and Release Agreements
(Docs. 86, 87). Each plaintiff had signed those agreements.
Defendant also attached the endorsed settlement checks that
defendant had issued to each plaintiff. In response,
plaintiffs filed a document under seal purporting to contain
copies of the settlement checks that plaintiff Jonathan King
contends he received (Doc. 89). Because plaintiffs'
submission differed from the settlement checks submitted in
defendant's filing, the court ordered the parties to
appear for a second hearing to explain the discrepancy. The
court also ordered plaintiffs' former counsel, Larry
Michel, to appear at the hearing to help the court understand
the apparent discrepancy.
October 22, 2018, the court held the second hearing.
Plaintiffs again appeared pro se at the hearing. Defendant
appeared through counsel. A corporate representative for
defendant again attended the hearing with defendant's
counsel. And Mr. Michel-plaintiffs' former
counsel-attended the hearing as the court had asked.
considering the parties' arguments (presented both by
their papers and during the September 27 and October 22
hearings) and after reviewing the parties' submissions,
the court denies plaintiffs' Motion for Order (Doc. 75).
Also, the court denies defendant's Motion for Sanctions
(Doc. 78). Although the court is frustrated by
plaintiffs' representations to the court and their
inability to provide all of the information necessary to
understand their assertions, the court does not find that
sanctions are warranted on this record. The court explains
August 26, 2016, plaintiffs Jonathan King and Tyrece Edwards,
acting through counsel Larry Michel, filed this lawsuit
against their former employer, defendant The Rib Crib BBQ,
Inc. Plaintiffs asserted race discrimination and retaliation
claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VII”). Mr. Michel represented both Mr.
King and Mr. Edwards through the discovery phase of the case.
Four days after the court entered the Pretrial Order-on
September 19, 2017-Mr. Michel moved to withdraw as counsel
for Mr. Edwards only. Doc. 56. The court granted that motion.
Doc. 62. Afterward, Mr. Edwards proceeded in the lawsuit pro
se. But Mr. Michel continued to represent Mr. King.
December 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge K. Gary Sebelius held a
settlement conference with the parties. Mr. Michel
represented Mr. King at the mediation. Mr. Edwards appeared
pro se. The parties announced they had settled their dispute
at the mediation. Afterward, Judge Sebelius entered an Order
reciting that the parties had reached a settlement. Doc. 70.
Also, he ordered the parties to submit a Stipulation of
Dismissal by December 29, 2017. Id.
December 14, 2017, counsel for defendant filed a
“Notice of Stipulated Voluntary Dismissal with
Prejudice.” Doc. 73. It recited that the parties were
dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). The Notice contained the
electronic signatures of three individuals: (1) Mr. Michel,
as Mr. King's counsel, signing on behalf of Mr. King; (2)
Mr. Edwards appearing pro se; and (3) defendant's counsel
signing on behalf of defendant.
next six months, the case saw no activity. But in July 2018,
plaintiffs submitted their letters to the court. In general,
they allege that the Stipulation of Dismissal is a
misrepresentation and contains a forgery. Plaintiffs,
appearing pro se,  repeated these same allegations at the
September 27 hearing. The court explores the plaintiffs'
allegations in more detail, next.
have made allegations-both in their papers and at the
hearing-that are difficult to follow. But, as best the court
can discern, both plaintiffs assert that defendant has not
performed its obligations under the parties' settlement
agreements. Specifically, Mr. King contends that defendants
have not complied with his settlement agreement because: (1)
he only received a portion of the total settlement amount to
which the parties agreed; (2) he did not receive a 1099 form
until July 2018; and (3) he did not receive a promised
neutral letter of reference until July 2018. At the September
27 hearing, Mr. Edwards asserted that he “wasn't
really sure” what he is seeking with his present
allegations. But later, he asked the court to award him $15,
000 for attorney's fees that defendant had paid to his
former counsel as part of the settlement. Mr. Edwards asserts
that his former counsel is not entitled to those fees. Also,
both plaintiffs contend that they never agreed to the
Stipulation of Dismissal (Doc. 73) that defendant filed with
the court on December 14, 2017. As explained below, none of
plaintiffs' assertions has any merit.
facts adduced at the hearings establish that both Mr. King
and Mr. Edwards entered settlement agreements with defendant.
Defendant's counsel explained at the September 27 hearing
that the parties reached an agreement at the December 1
mediation. Judge Sebelius's Order confirms as much. Doc.
70. Defendant's counsel also represented that the parties
discussed the terms of their settlements in detail, and later
tried to put the settlements' terms on the record with
Judge Sebelius. After the mediation, the parties reduced
their agreements to writing. Defendant's counsel
represented that he sent the proposed settlement agreements
by email both to Mr. King's counsel and Mr. Edwards
personally. Mr. Michel confirmed that he received the
proposed settlement agreement for Mr. King, and he also
represented that he provided it to Mr. King for review.
December 5, 2017, Mr. Michel sent defendant's counsel a
fully executed copy of Mr. King's settlement agreement.
Doc. 77-1. In his correspondence attaching the fully executed
agreement, Mr. Michel asked whether defendant intended to
prepare a Stipulation of Dismissal. Id. at 1.
Defendant's counsel responded the same day by sending a
proposed Stipulation. Id. He asked Mr. Michel if he
had permission to file the Stipulation once Mr. King had
received his settlement payment. Id. Mr. Michel
responded that he approved the Stipulation and that
defendant's counsel could file it once payment was made.
Doc. 77-2 at 1.
December 7, 2017, Mr. Edwards sent an email to
defendant's counsel acknowledging he had received his
proposed settlement agreement and that he was in the process
of reviewing it. Doc. 77-3. That same day, defendant's
counsel sent Mr. Edwards a proposed Stipulation of Dismissal.
Id. Defendant's counsel asked Mr. Edwards if he
had Mr. Edwards's approval to file it once the parties
had executed their settlement agreements and defendant had
made the settlement payments. Id. On December 12,
2017, defendant's counsel sent another email to Mr.
Edwards asking if he had an opportunity yet to review his
settlement agreement. Doc. 77-4. Mr. Edwards responded that
he was ready to sign once defendant had the settlement checks
for him. Doc. 77-5 at 1. Defendant's counsel responded
that he had the settlement checks ready to issue and offered
to meet Mr. Edwards to execute the agreement and deliver the
checks. Doc. 77-6 at 1. Mr. Edwards responded: “[I]f u
got the check lets roll.” Doc. 77-7. Defendant's
counsel and Mr. Edwards then made arrangements for Mr.
Edwards to come to the office of defendant's
counsel's to sign the agreement. On December 12, 2017,
Mr. Edwards went to defendant's counsel's office,
signed his settlement agreement, and received the settlement
checks, a neutral letter of reference, and W-2 and 1099 tax
December 14, 2017, defendant's counsel filed the
Stipulation of Dismissal that Mr. Michel (as Mr. King's
counsel) and Mr. Edwards had approved. Doc. 73. Mr. Michel
and Mr. Edwards (as a registered pro se litigant) received
notice of the Stipulation of Dismissal's filing by email.
Doc. 77-9 at 1. No one objected to the Notice of