United States District Court, D. New Jersey
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Dunn Wettre United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is the motion of defendant City of Englewood to
enforce a settlement agreement and for reimbursement of costs
and attorneys' fees (ECF No. 87), and the motion of
plaintiffs pro se Chukwuemeka Ezekwo and Ifeoma
Ezekwo to remand the case for trial (ECF No. 107). United
States District Judge Susan D. Wigenton referred the motions
to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation. Having
considered the parties' written submissions on the
motions and the testimony and exhibits proffered at the
evidentiary hearing before the Court held on November 6,
2017, for the reasons set forth in this Report and
Recommendation, and for good cause shown, this Court
recommends that defendants' motion to enforce the
settlement be GRANTED, defendants'
motion for costs and attorneys' fees be
DENIED, and plaintiffs' motion to remand
the case for trial be DENIED.
an action alleging deprivation of plaintiffs' federal
civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. §
1988, and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United
States Constitution in connection with a physical
confrontation between three City of Englewood police officers
and the plaintiffs in Englewood Hospital, much of which was
captured on videotape. See ECF No. 1.
procedural history of the settlement negotiations is
necessary to place the motions in context. The Court held an
initial settlement conference on February 2, 2017. During the
conference, plaintiffs waited in the courtroom while the
Court held settlement discussions with their counsel and
defendants' counsel, alternatively, in the jury room of
the undersigned's courtroom. The settlement conference
concluded without a settlement, although all counsel agreed
that discussions should be continued at a subsequent
Court held a subsequent settlement conference on March 28,
2017. At that time, only counsel for the parties were present
and none of the parties themselves. It was represented to the
Court by plaintiffs' counsel that they were communicating
the settlement positions to their clients by telephone. That
conference was completed without a settlement having been
reached, although me Court left counsel with a proposed
settlement amount for both sides to consider.
thereafter, on March 30, 2017, counsel jointly telephoned the
Court to report that they had reached a settlement, pursuant
to which defendant City of Englewood would pay plaintiffs
$1.31 million in full and final resolution of the action.
Accordingly, as is usual when a settlement in principle is
reached, counsel consented to administrative closure of the
case by 60-day Order. ECF No. 84.
31, 2017, defendants filed the instant motion to enforce
settlement, asserting that settlement had not been
consummated because plaintiffs refused to sign documents
releasing defendants from the asserted claims in exchange for
payment of the agreed settlement amount. ECF No. 87.
Plaintiffs opposed this motion pro se, ECF No. 95,
and subsequently notified the Court that they had terminated
their counsel in this matter. ECF No. 102. Plaintiffs then
filed an omnibus-style motion on July 28, 2017, seeking the
recusal of the undersigned Magistrate Judge, a "change
of venue, " and to "remand the case for
trial." ECF Nos. 107, 108, 109. By Letter Order, the
Court denied plaintiffs' request for recusal and change
of venue on October 16, 2017. ECF No. 120.
Order of October 17, 2017, the Court scheduled an evidentiary
hearing for November 3, 2017 to resolve factual issues
relevant to the instant motions. ECF No. 121. The Court
ordered defendants to identify the witnesses they intended to
call at the hearing and the exhibits on which they planned to
rely on or before October 23, 2017. Id.
compliance with that Order, defendants' filed a letter on
October 18, 2017 identifying plaintiffs' former counsel
as among the witnesses they planned to subpoena to testify at
the evidentiary hearing. ECF No. 122. On October 30, 2017,
plaintiffs filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on their
former counsel and requested an indefinite adjournment of the
hearing. ECF Nos. 130, 131.
October 30, 2017, the Court adjourned the evidentiary hearing
from November 3, 2017 to November 6, 2017 upon notice to all
parties. This adjournment was in part due to plaintiffs'
failure to participate in status teleconferences regarding
the hearing that the Court had scheduled. See ECF No. 129.
Court conducted the evidentiary hearing on November 6, 2017.
Plaintiffs pro se and counsel for all defendants
attended. At the outset of the hearing, the Court denied
plaintiffs' motions to adjourn the hearing and to quash
the subpoenas on their former counsel. See ECF No.
135. The hearing then proceeded, with defendants calling
plaintiffs' former counsel, Michael Maggiano, Esq. and
Antonio Romanucci, Esq., to testify. Plaintiffs
cross-examined Messrs. Romanucci and Maggiano but declined
the opportunity offered by the Court to testify themselves.
motions before the Court require the Court to decide three
issues. The first is whether an enforceable settlement was
reached in this matter. If the Court determines that it was,
defendants' motion to enforce settlement must be granted
and plaintiffs' motion to restore this case to the active
docket for trial must be denied. The second issue is,
assuming an enforceable settlement was reached, what terms
should be included in the release that plaintiffs declined to
sign. Finally, the Court must address ...