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Murphy v. Water District 37

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 27, 2013

DAVID W. MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
WATER DISTRICT 37 AND WATER DISTRICT 37M, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendants Water District 37 and Water District 37M's Motion to Enforce Settlement (Dkt. 64). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion.

BACKGROUND

On September 12, 2013, the parties attended a judicial settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams serving as the mediator. Plaintiff David. W. Murphy and his pro bono counsel, Adam Little, were present at the settlement conference, as well as Glen Goff of the State of Idaho, Department of Administration, Risk Management Program, Idaho Department of Water Resources DAG, Garrick Baxter, and defense counsel, Michael E. Kelly, for the Water District. At the conclusion of the settlement conference, the parties reached a resolution, which Judge Williams confirmed on the record. Minute Entries, Dkts. 52 and 53).

Representatives for the Water District then worked on memorializing the specific terms of the agreement in the Release and Settlement Agreement. Kelly Aff., Ex. A, Dkt. 61-2. Later, the parties revised the terms and conditions of the Release and Settlement Agreement and in the language of the an employment reference letter signed by the Water District 37 Water Master, Kevin Lakey. Id. at Ex. B. Further revisions were made to the Release and Indemnity Agreement with the addition of Frederic Brossy as a signatory on the Release for the Water District, and the deletion of the last paragraph in the employment reference letter, which was done at Murphy's request. Id. at Exs. C and D.

On November 12, 2012, Murphy's pro bono counsel served the Water District with a motion for leave to withdraw as counsel of record. Mot. to Withdraw, Dkt. 57. Attached to the Affidavit of Counsel was a complaint Murphy had filed with the U.S. Department of Justice against the U.S. District Court-District of Idaho claiming that he was discriminated against during the July 17, 2012 deposition in this matter and also during the September 17, 2012 settlement conference. Dept. of Justice Compl., Dkt. 57-1 at 5-6.

In May 2012, Murphy had his doctor submit a note requesting CART (Communication Assisted Real Time Translation) assistance during his deposition, and other court proceedings. In July 2012, Murphy was deposed with counsel present but without aid of the requested CART assistance. At the beginning of the deposition, defense counsel specifically asked Murphy whether he could hear and Murphy answered in the affirmative. Murphy Dep. 6:7-11, Ex. E to Kelly Aff., Dkt. 64-2. And at no point during the deposition did Murphy say he could not continue the deposition without CART assistance. Kelly Aff. ¶ 7, Dkt. 64-2.

After the deposition, Murphy had an opportunity to review the deposition transcript and make any necessary changes. Murphy made a few changes and then verified the transcript. Verification Page, Ex. F. to Kelly Aff., Dkt. 64-2. At no point in time, did Murphy suggest that anything took place during his deposition that caused him concern or the belief that he had been taken advantage of during the deposition. Kelly Aff. ¶ 9. According to the Water, District, because Murphy never raised any concerns regarding his deposition, his deposition testimony did not significantly affect the settlement discussions.

Murphy also alleges that he could not hear during the settlement conference. Murphy Aff. ¶ 7, Dkt. 68-1. He says that after reviewing the written settlement agreement after the settlement conference, he "was simply shocked how much were missed, " and he "became very discouraged over this." Resp. Br. at 1, Dkt. 68. Because of all he apparently missed, Murphy asked his attorney to "repeal" the deposition and settlement, and his attorney allegedly told him "it was too late." Id. 1-2. Murphy suggests that both his attorney and Judge Williams used his hearing impairment to manipulate him into settling, and now he refuses to sign the settlement agreement. Id.

The Water District moves to enforce the settlement terms.

ANALYSIS

An agreement to settle a legal dispute is a contract and its enforceability is governed by state contract law. Jeff D. v. Andrus, 899 F.2d 753, 759 (9th Cir. 1989). Under Idaho law, a settlement agreement "supersedes and extinguishes all pre-existing claims the parties intended to settle." Vanderford Co., Inc. v. Knudson, 249 P.3d 857');"> 249 P.3d 857, 863 (Idaho 2011). "In an action brought to enforce an agreement of compromise and settlement, made in good faith, the court will not inquire into the merits or validity of the original claim." Id. (quoting Goodman v. Lothrop, 151 P.3d 818, 821 (2007)). Instead, the only issue a court will consider "is the question of the validity and enforceability of the mediation agreement at issue." Id.

As with any contract, Idaho law favors the finality of settlements whenever possible. See Hershey v. Simpson, 725 P.2d 196, 199 (Idaho App. 1986). A court, however, may set aside a settlement agreement obtained by fraud, duress, undue influence, or incapacity of a party. Id. In this case, Murphy, through his affidavit, raises issues of duress, undue influence, and incapacity. "A motion for the enforcement of a settlement agreement is treated as a motion for summary ...


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