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Stone v. Hammers

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

June 21, 2019

MICHAEL STONE, Plaintiff,
v.
JUSTIN HAMMERS, et al. Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Tom Schanzle-Haskins, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This cause is before the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation on the Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement filed by Defendants (d/e 55). The undersigned recommends that the Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement be GRANTED on the terms set forth below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Michael Stone filed this action alleging First Amendment free speech and Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims based on the confiscation of a letter Plaintiff had in his possession and his subsequent punishment for possessing the letter (d/e 1). Defendants maintained the letter contained gang references and was an attempt to conduct an unauthorized business venture (d/e 15). The First Amendment claim survived summary judgment, and this case was then referred to the undersigned to conduct a settlement conference.

         On August 8, 2018, the settlement conference was held and the parties reached a settlement agreement. The Court recorded the material terms of the settlement.[1] The material terms of the settlement were as follows:

1) The State would pay the Plaintiff the sum of $1, 250.00 for settlement and dismissal of the case with prejudice;
2) The Court would order the waiver of Plaintiff's obligation to pay filing fees in this case and in other litigation in the amount of $774.22;
3) The Defendants' counsel would prepare a settlement agreement embodying the terms of the settlement, including a stipulation to dismiss.

         The Court informed the Plaintiff that the payment of the settlement award would not be made immediately and would probably be made within six months of the settlement agreement.

         The Plaintiff raised two issues with the Court after the statement of the settlement agreement. The Plaintiff asked the Court if the case would be dismissed prior to payment of the settlement award. The Court indicated that the case would not be dismissed with prejudice until the settlement was paid. The Plaintiff also asked the Court if his Motion for Reconsideration (d/e 25), would be ruled upon by the Court. The Court informed the Plaintiff that the Motion for Reconsideration would not be ruled upon by the Court as settlement of the case ended all issues in the pending case. All issues in the case were resolved under the terms of the settlement. Plaintiff then indicated he understood the settlement and agreed to its terms.

         Defendants sent a draft settlement agreement (d/e 49-1, p 1-6) to Plaintiff, who responded with his own handwritten draft of a settlement agreement (d/e 49-2, p 1-6). Plaintiff objected to the release language in paragraph 4 of the Defendants' agreement and the language in paragraph 1 stating that the amount paid in settlement was subject to the State's obligation to withhold any funds which Plaintiff owed to the State. Plaintiff also sought to add a paragraph requiring the expungement of the Plaintiff's 8/7/2015 disciplinary report.

         The undersigned held two conferences to address these issues. The first of these telephone conferences was held by the Court on October 18, 2018. The Court ordered that defense counsel report to the Plaintiff whether there was any amount to be paid in settlement that was subject to the State's obligation to withhold any funds the Plaintiff owed the State. During that telephone conversation, defense counsel indicated that the Plaintiff's settlement agreement did not conform with the terms of the settlement reached on August 8, 2018. The Court advised both parties that the settlement agreement must reflect the terms of the August 8, 2018 settlement. The Court directed defense counsel to provide to the Court, under seal, copies of the settlement agreement provided to the Plaintiff and Plaintiff's proposed settlement agreement. A further telephone conference was scheduled for November 8, 2018.

         On October 30, 2018, counsel for the Defendants filed with the Court a sealed notice (d/e 49) regarding compliance with the Court's orders made during the October 18, 2018 telephone status conference. Defense counsel noted that the Plaintiff's settlement agreement did not reflect the agreements reached at the August 8, 2018 settlement conference in two regards. First, the Defendants' counsel indicated the Plaintiff's settlement agreement added a provision that expunges his disciplinary ticket that is the subject of the litigation. Defense counsel also indicated that the Plaintiff's settlement agreement required that payment would be within 45 days of execution of the settlement agreement. Defense counsel further indicated that the Office of the Comptroller indicated there was no indebtedness which would involve involuntary withholding funds from the settlement proceeds payable to the Plaintiff under the terms of the settlement agreement.

         The next telephone status conference regarding the settlement took place on November 8, 2018. During that telephone conference, defense counsel reported that the Comptroller's office indicated that there were no funds due and owing to the State or other creditors which would be deducted from the settlement proceeds payable to Plaintiff pursuant to the terms of the settlement reached in this case. The Court informed the Plaintiff that the expungement of the grievance and the payment of the settlement amount within 45 days were not part of the settlement reached by the ...


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