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Montgomery v. Village of Posen

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 23, 2017



          HON. MARIA VALDEZ, United States Magistrate Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Clarence Montgomery brought this complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to redress Defendants' alleged violation of his Fourth Amendment rights related to a warrantless search of Montgomery's leased property. On the morning of trial, the parties reached a settlement agreement, and the jury trial was stricken. Plaintiff subsequently filed the present motion to withdraw from the settlement agreement [Doc. No. 100]. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is denied.


         Montgomery's complaint alleges that Defendant Village of Posen's President, Chief of Police, and building inspector, among others, unconstitutionally authorized and/or conducted a search of his rented business property and ultimately issued a number of code violation tickets. See Montgomery v. Village of Posen, No. 14 C 3864, 2015 WL 6445456, at *1-2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 2015) (denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment). Defendants do not deny that a search took place but contend they had the authority to do so because Montgomery's landlord consented to the search. Id. at *2.

         The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) on April 30, 2015. At a status hearing shortly after the reassignment, Defendants indicated their intent to file a motion for summary judgment. That motion was denied on October 23, 2015. Montgomery, 2015 WL 6445456, at *3. Shortly thereafter, the matter was set for a settlement conference, which took place on March 3, 2016. No settlement was reached that day, and a further status was set to schedule a trial date. (3/3/16 Minute Order [Doc. No. 77].) The jury trial was then set for June 27, 2016. (3/17/17 Minute Order [Doc. No. 80].)

         A jury instruction conference was held on Thursday, June 23, 2016, four days before the trial was to begin. During that conference, the Court took a break to allow the parties to discuss settlement options. (See 3/2/17 Hr'g Tr. [hereinafter “Tr.”] at 8:25-11:1, 33:6-34:1 [Doc. No. 125].) Those discussions were not fruitful, and the parties appeared for trial on June 27, 2016.

         Shortly after the case was called, and before the jury venire was brought in, the Court inquired whether the parties had explored all settlement options. (Tr. at 12:16-13:1, 34:8-18.) Both sides ultimately agreed to meet with the Court in chambers to revisit the possibility of settlement. (Tr. at 35:19-23, 35:12-17.) The settlement conference lasted a couple of hours, and each side came into chambers to speak to the Court several times. (Tr. at 35:19-22.) Those conferences resulted in a settlement agreement, and the parties signed a Settlement Checklist/Term Sheet, the terms of which were written by the Court to reflect the parties' agreement. (Defs.' Resp., Ex. A.) The checklist provided that Defendants were to pay Plaintiff a total of $10, 000 and move to dismiss with prejudice all administrative tickets issued to Plaintiff as a result of the search of his property on May 15, 2014. (Ex. A at 1-2.) In exchange, Plaintiff agreed to dismiss his lawsuit with prejudice. (Id. at 3.) Under the section captioned Effective Date, the checklist stated that there would be “A binding agreement today.” (Id.) The other Effective Date option - “No binding agreement until the typed settlement agreement is signed” - specifies that it applies only “in instances where parties need to obtain further approval given the structure of the company or municipality . . .” (Id.)

         After the parties signed the agreement, they appeared in court to put the settlement on the record. (See Tr. at 14:12-15:19, 18:21-19:12, 39:14-40:1; Defs.' Resp., Ex. B.) The following colloquy occurred:

THE COURT: Good morning to you both. The Court has just concluded a settlement conference, and based on what the parties have stated to the Court a settlement has been reached. Is that, in fact, correct, Mr. Montgomery?
THE PLAINTIFF: That is correct.
THE COURT: And is that correct, Mr. Niemeyer?
MR. NIEMEYER: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: All right. The specific terms of the settlement are confidential.
The Court has provided Mr. Niemeyer with a settlement checklist that he needs to work out with Mr. Montgomery. At the end of the settlement checklist is a space for signatures. I need a signature of Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Niemeyer on behalf of the defense.
Mr. Montgomery, I want to make sure you understand that during the course of the settlement conference that we had, you were completely free to say yes or no, depending on what ...

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