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Alexander v. New Jersey Department of Transportation

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 10, 2014



PETER G. SHERIDAN, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a motion by Plaintiff Michael Alexander ("Plaintiff" or "Mr. Alexander") (Dkt. Entry No. 46) to stay execution of (1) the Order of this Court, entered on September 13, 2013 ("September 13, 2013 Order") (Dkt. Entry. No. 35), granting Defendant New Jersey Department of Transportation's ("NJDOT" or "Defendant") motion to enforce the settlement previously negotiated and entered into by the parties (Dkt. Entry. No. 25), as well as (2) the subsequent Order of this Court, entered on September 15, 2014 ("September 15, 2014 Order") (Dkt. Entry No. 43), denying Plaintiff's motion to amend the September 13, 2014 Order (Dkt. Entry No. 36).[1]

Having carefully reviewed the submissions of the parties, as well as the arguments proffered therein, and for the reasons that follow, and for good cause shown, Plaintiff's motion to stay execution of this Court's Orders of September 13, 2013 and September 15, 2014 is hereby DENIED with prejudice.


I. Legal Standard

The Third Circuit has emphatically recognized that a "stay pending appeal... is an extraordinary remedy." Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Civ. No. 13-1144, 2013 WL 1277419, at *1 (D.N.J. Feb. 8, 2103). The standard governing an award, upon application, of a stay pending appeal "is essentially the same as that for obtaining a preliminary injunction." Id. To demonstrate entitlement to preliminary injunctive relief, a party must demonstrate "(1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that it will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; (3) that granting the preliminary relief will not result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) that the public interest favors such relief." Id. (quoting Kos Pharm., Inc. v. Andrx Corp., 369 F.3d 700, 708 (3d Cir. 2004)). Accordingly, in ruling upon the instant motion for stay pending appeal, the Court must weigh the same four factors considered by courts in determining whether a grant of preliminary relief is warranted.

Importantly, it bears noting that the Third Circuit has observed that "[s]uch stays are rarely granted, because in our Court the bar is set particularly high." Id. Indeed, an "injunction shall issue only if the plaintiff produces evidence sufficient to convince the district court that all four factors favor preliminary relief." Id. (quoting N.J. Hosp. Ass'n v. Waldman, 73 F.3d 509, 512 (3d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted)). Therefore, "[a] plaintiff's failure to establish any element in its favor renders a preliminary injunction inappropriate." Id. (quoting NutraSweet Co. v. Vit-Mar Enter., Inc., 176 F.3d 151, 152 (3d Cir. 1999)).

Because the Court's determination as to whether Plaintiff has carried his burden of demonstrating a likelihood of success on the merits is dispositive as to the present motion, the Court need not conduct a lengthy analysis under the remaining prongs of the preliminary injunction inquiry.

II. Analysis

1. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

In order to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to the requested stay of the September 13, 2013 Order of this Court granting Defendant's motion to enforce settlement, Plaintiff must show that, at that time, there was insufficient factual support in the record for the Court's findings that (i) a valid settlement agreement had been consummated between the parties; (ii) Plaintiff had been apprised, and was made fully aware, that any settlement reached by the parties was contingent upon his resignation of his position with NJDOT; and (iii) that Plaintiff's prior attorney, William Riback ("Mr. Riback"), possessed the necessary authority to bind the Plaintiff to the agreement negotiated by the parties during the settlement conference convened before the Court. In order to carry his burden with respect to the stay requested as to the September 15, 2014 Order of this Court denying Plaintiff's motion to amend the judgment, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the Court erred in construing his motion as one for reconsideration, and that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to establish a likelihood of success as to either of the requested stays and, accordingly, the motion must be dismissed with prejudice.

a. The September 13, 2013 Order Enforcing Settlement

Although the Court has amply set forth in multiple orders and decisions the basis for its denials of Plaintiff's repeated attempts at avoiding enforcement of the settlement, the Court will, nonetheless, summarize its reasoning here for purposes of clarity.

Prior to issuing the Report and Recommendation with respect to NJDOT's motion to enforce the settlement, the Honorable Lois H. Goodman, U.S.M.J., solicited and considered "documents containing relevant facts, " including Plaintiff's own affidavit, as well as certifications from Plaintiff's counsel and counsel for NJDOT, that bore directly on the controversy validity of the settlement. See Report and Recommendation at 2-5 (Dkt. Entry No. 33). In addition, at the settlement conference convened before her, Magistrate Judge Goodman personally and substantially participated in the negotiations, meeting both with the parties, as well as separately with counsel, in order to facilitate a meeting of the minds as to the terms and conditions whereby the matter could be settled. Id. at 2. Moreover, in her detailed and thorough recitation of the events surrounding the parties' settlement, Magistrate Judge Goodman observed that on several occasions throughout the day it was made clear to Plaintiff that any settlement agreed to by NJDOT would require an agreement by him to resign his employment. Id. at 2-3, 11-12. Finally, that Plaintiff appeared at the settlement conference accompanied by Mr. Riback, who negotiated and made clear specific settlement terms on Plaintiff's behalf, led both Defendant and the Court to reasonably believe that Mr. Riback possessed the necessary authority to settle the matter. Id. at 11. At no point thereafter did Plaintiff state or otherwise indicate to the Court that Mr. Riback's authority to settle on his client's behalf had been withdrawn. Id. Accordingly, on the basis of this exhaustive review and analysis, as well as her own participation in the settlement ...

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