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Laura Cintron v. the State of New Jersey

September 29, 2011

LAURA CINTRON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joel Schneider United States Magistrate Judge

[Doc. No. 19]

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the "Motion to Enforce Settlement" filed by defendants. [Doc. No. 19]. The Court received the response filed by plaintiff's counsel [Doc. No. 25]*fn1 and defendants' reply [Doc. No. 24]. The Court also held a hearing at which plaintiff Laura Cintron appeared and was heard. All parties consented on the record to the jurisdiction of this Court to decide defendants' motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c). For the reasons to be discussed, defendants' motion is GRANTED.

Plaintiff filed her complaint on January 13, 2010 [Doc. No. 1] and her amended complaint on February 3, 2010. [Doc. No. 2].

Plaintiff is employed at the State of New Jersey's Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. Plaintiff generally alleges that beginning on or about January 25, 2008, and continuing through the present, she has been subject to sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

The initial conference in the case was held on April 23, 2010. [Doc. No. 6]. Thereafter, the parties vigorously litigated the case and conducted discovery. At the parties' request, on May 17, 2011, the Court held a settlement conference. In addition to plaintiff's counsel (Edith Pearce, Esquire) and defense counsel (Gail Beran, Esquire), plaintiff and a client representative of defendants (Michele West Jones) appeared at the settlement conference. Plaintiff's husband also accompanied her. At the conference the parties reached a settlement which was memorialized in a handwritten May 17, 2011 confirmation signed by plaintiff, all counsel and Ms. Jones. See Certification of Gail R. Beran, Esquire, Exhibit D. The entire agreement reads as follows:

5/17/11 Civil Action No. 10-195

1. By May 27, 2011, Laura Cintron will submit the DPF-44 form to Mona Fredlund. Within 30 days of submission Ancora will submit the form to the appropriate department.

2. Laura Cintron's mail receptacle will be moved to the front office area.

3. Laura Cintron may cc the deputy CEO of Ancora on any future applications for promotional announcements.

4. The State will credit Laura Cintron 25 days of SLI.

5. Plaintiff shall be paid $25,000.00 in full settlement of all pending claims against the State and will sign the standard release form dismissing all claims with prejudice. The check will be made payable to Laura Cintron and The Pearce Law Firm, P.C. and mailed via certified mail to The Pearce Law Firm, P.C. Laura Cintron agrees to sign all forms necessary to process this settlement. s/Laura Cintron s/Gail R. Beran, DAG s/Edith Pearce s/M.W. Jones, DHS, Legal

As is evident from the signed agreement, the settlement did not merely involve a monetary payment. Defendants also agreed to other concessions to accommodate plaintiff's concerns about ongoing harassment and her inability to be promoted.

After she signed the settlement agreement, plaintiff had second thoughts. On May 18, 2011, plaintiff faxed a letter to all counsel and the Court stating that she would not proceed with the settlement.*fn2 On May 23, 2011, defense counsel sent plaintiff a Release and other settlement documents to sign. See Beran Certification, Exhibit G. On the same date, the Honorable Noel L. Hillman entered a 60-day Order of Dismissal. Id. at Exhibit F. After plaintiff's counsel did not return the signed Release and settlement documents, defense counsel sent her a June 15, 2011 letter ...


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