United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ST. EVE United States District Court Judge
Court adopts Magistrate Judge Valdez's February 23, 2017
Report and Recommendation as it relates to Defendants'
motion to enforce the settlement agreement. . The Court
grants Defendants' motion to enforce the settlement
agreement, and thus the parties' December 2016 settlement
agreement is binding. Because the Magistrate Judge construed
third-party Latonia Walker's February 13, 2017 motion as
a response to Defendants' motion to enforce the
settlement agreement, the Court denies Walker's motion as
moot. . Due to the enforceable settlement agreement in
this matter, this case is hereby dismissed, without
prejudice, with leave to reinstate by May 12, 2017 to enforce
the settlement. After May 12, 2017, said dismissal will
convert to a dismissal with prejudice. Status hearing remains
set for March 21, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. Plaintiff is directed to
appear on March 21, 2017 so his signature can be obtained on
the settlement agreement. If plaintiff's signature is
obtained prior to March 21, 2017, the status hearing will be
a magistrate judge prepares a report and recommendation for a
district court, the governing statute provides that the
district court ‘shall make a de novo determination'
with respect to any contested matter.” Kanter v.
C.I.R, 590 F.3d 410, 416 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)). As the Seventh Circuit explains:
De novo review requires the district judge to decide the case
based on an independent review of the evidence and arguments
without giving any presumptive weight to the magistrate
judge's conclusion. The district judge is free, and
encouraged, to consider all of the available information
about the case when making this independent decision. A
district judge may be persuaded by the reasoning of a
magistrate judge or a special master while still engaging in
an independent decision-making process.
Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 661 (7th Cir.
2013). On the other hand, “[i]f no specific objection
is made, or only a partial objection, the district court
reviews the uncontested portions for clear error.”
Saban v. Caremark Rx, L.L.C., 780 F.Supp.2d 700, 704
(N.D. Ill. 2011). “The magistrate judge's
recommendation on a dispositive matter is not a final order,
and the district judge makes the ultimate decision to adopt,
reject, or modify it.” Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss
Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009); see
also Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b).
the Court is third-party Latonia Walker's pro se
objections to Magistrate Judge Valdez's Report and
Recommendation that the Court construes liberally, along with
Walker's other filings in this lawsuit. See Parker v.
Four Seasons Hotels, Ltd., 845 F.3d 807, 811 (7th Cir.
2017). On February 23, 2017, Judge Valdez recommended that
the Court grant Defendants' motion to enforce the
parties' settlement agreement. Before examining
Walker's objections to the Report and Recommendation, the
Court gives a brief background of this lawsuit.
April 22, 2016, Plaintiff Stephen Cotton, by counsel, filed a
Fourth Amendment excessive force claim and state law
malicious prosecution claim against certain Chicago Police
Officers and the City of Chicago. On December 7, 2016, the
Court referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Valdez for
purposes of holding a settlement conference. On December 8,
2016, Defendants tendered their settlement offer to
Plaintiff's attorney Gregory Kulis. The material terms of
the settlement are that in exchange for $30, 000, Plaintiff
would dismiss his lawsuit in its entirety with prejudice.
Thereafter, on December 13, 2016, Mr. Kulis informed counsel
for the City of Chicago that he had spoken with his client
and that Plaintiff accepted Defendants' offer to settle.
Also on December 13, Plaintiff's counsel advised Judge
Valdez that the parties had reached a settlement agreement in
principle, at which time Judge Valdez set a status hearing
for January 12, 2017.
January 12, 2017 status hearing, Plaintiff's counsel
informed the Magistrate Judge that he had yet to obtain
Plaintiff's signature on the settlement documents because
he could not reach his client. In addition, Defendants'
counsel did not appear at the January 12 status hearing, but
instead filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement on
January 13. Judge Valdez then held a motion hearing on
January 26, at which time Plaintiff's mother, Latonia
Walker, appeared pro se as a third-party. At that time,
Walker disputed the settlement agreement asserting that her
19-year-old son, Plaintiff Stephen Cotton, was disabled and
had an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”).
Judge Valdez heard the parties' arguments and directed
Walker to file a response to Defendants' motion to
enforce the settlement agreement, which Walker did not do in
a timely fashion. Nonetheless, once Walker filed her response
on February 13, Judge Valdez considered the response and
recommended that the Court grant Defendants' motion to
enforce the settlement.
Report and Recommendation, Judge Valdez first addressed
Walker's arguments that the settlement was not
enforceable based on her right to due process under the
Fourteenth Amendment and Sixth Amendment right to effective
assistance of counsel concluding that because Walker was not
a party to the lawsuit, she did not have standing to raise
either theory. See Lardas v. Grcic, 847 F.3d 561,
566 (7th Cir. 2017). The Court agrees and also notes that
“there is no Sixth Amendment right to effective
assistance of counsel in a civil case.” Stanciel v.
Gramley, 267 F.3d 575, 581 (7th Cir. 2001); see also
Romanelli v. Suliene, 615 F.3d 847, 851 (7th Cir. 2010)
(“There is no constitutional or statutory right to
counsel in federal civil cases.”).
next argues that the settlement was unenforceable because it
was unsigned. Turning to Illinois contract law, settlement
agreements are enforced like any other contract. See In
re Illinois Bell Tele. Link-Up II, 994 N.E.2d 553, 558,
373 Ill.Dec. 784 (1st Dist. 2013) (settlement
“agreements are construed and enforced under principles
of contract law”). “Like any other contract, the
essential terms of the settlement agreement must be definite
and certain for it to be enforceable.” City of
Chicago v. Ramirez, 366 Ill.App.3d 935, 946, 852 N.E.2d
312, 324, 304 Ill.Dec. 62, 74 (1st Dist. 2006). Thus,
“[f]or an oral contract to be valid and enforceable,
its terms must be definite and consistent.” Downs
v. Rosenthal Collins Group, L.L.C., 963 N.E.2d 282, 297,
357 Ill.Dec. 329, 344 (1st Dist. 2011); see also Kim v.
Alvey, Inc., 322 Ill.App.3d 657, 669, 255 Ill.Dec. 267,
749 N.E.2d 368 (3d Dist. 2001) (“Illinois encourages
the settlement of claims and, to that end, settlement
agreements may be oral.”).
Report and Recommendation, Judge Valdez highlighted the
simplicity of the parties' settlement agreement to
underscore the definite and consistent material terms of the
oral agreement, namely, Plaintiff will dismiss this lawsuit
with prejudice in exchange for $30, 000. Indeed, under the
circumstances of this case, the material terms of the
December 2016 agreement are definite and consistent as
required under Illinois law. See Downs, 963 N.E.2d
at 297; see also Condon & Cook, L.L.C. v.
Mavrakis,69 N.E.3d 274, 284 (1st Dist. 2016). Walker
nonetheless takes issue with the dismissal of the lawsuit as
a term of the settlement agreement because the individual
defendant officers get “to walk away without accepting
any responsibility for their actions.” (R. 59,
Objections, at 2.) As Judge Valdez explained to Walker at the
January 26, 2017 motion hearing, “when there is a
settlement agreement [p]art of the agreement will be a
dismissal of the case because that's what you are buying,
and it's a dismissal with prejudice. That's what you
get for [the] money. So, that's normal, standard, nothing
unusual, nothing strange about that.” (R. 47, 1/26/17
Hr'g Tr., at 8.) In any event, the ...