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Perry v. Tinkham

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 24, 2018

ALAN J. PERRY, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
PETER TINKHAM, et al., Defendants PETER TINKHAM, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
LAURA PERRY, et al., Defendants

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR COURT TO DEEM SETTLEMENT DOCUMENTS SIGNED AND FOR SANCTIONS

          JOHN C. NIVISON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Court to Deem Settlement Documents Signed and for Sanctions. (Motion, ECF No. 268.) Defendants did not file a response to the motion.

         After review of the motion and the record, the Court grants the motion.

         Discussion

         On May 24, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Settlement and for Sanctions. (Decision and Order, ECF No. 264.)[1] In the Decision and Order, the Court ordered the parties to sign all documents necessary to implement the settlement. Specifically, the Court ordered:

On or after May 29, 2018, Plaintiffs shall forward to Defendants, in a form by which Defendants' receipt of the documents can be verified, the documents Plaintiffs believe Defendants must sign to implement the terms of the settlement. Within 7 days of the receipt of the documents, Defendants shall execute the documents and return the executed original documents to Plaintiffs' counsel.

(Decision and Order at 11-12.)

         On June 13, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Court to Deem Settlement Documents Signed and for Sanctions, in which motion Plaintiffs ask the Court to deem the settlement documents signed by Defendants because Defendants have failed to execute the necessary settlement documents. (ECF No. 268.) In support of their motion, Plaintiffs filed several exhibits by which they document their efforts to forward the settlement documents to Plaintiffs. (ECF Nos. 268-1, 268-2, 268-3, 269-4, 268-5.) Defendants did not file a response to the motion.

         On the same date Plaintiffs filed their motion, Defendants filed a notice of appeal from the Decision and Order. (ECF No. 271.) “[A]s a general rule, the filing of a notice of appeal divests a district court of authority to proceed with respect to any matter touching upon, or involved in, the appeal.” United States v. Brooks, 145 F.3d 446, 455 (1st Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Plaintiffs' Motion to Deem Settlement Documents Signed is derivative of the substantive relief granted in the Court's Decision and Order, the Court deferred consideration of the motion pending the appeal. On September 21, 2018, the First Circuit dismissed the appeal. (Judgment, ECF No. 278.) On October 15, 2018, the First Circuit issued its mandate. (ECF No. 279.) With the appeal resolved, the Court will address the relief requested by Plaintiffs.

         In the Decision and Order, the Court wrote:

The Court recognizes that Plaintiffs have asked the Court to deem that Defendants have signed a release and that Defendants have signed a deed transferring all interest in the Weld property. Because the Court has not previously ordered the enforcement of the settlement, the Court believes it appropriate to permit Defendants the opportunity to comply with the Court's order before the Court considers whether any other enforcement measures are appropriate, including whether to deem that Defendants have signed certain documents. In the event Defendants do not comply with the Court's order, Defendants are advised that further sanctions are possible and the Court will consider Plaintiffs' request to deem the settlement-related documents to have been signed by Defendants. See, e.g., Farmer v. Banco Popular of N.A., 791 F.3d 1246 (10th Cir. 2015) (upholding imposition of sanctions for party's failure to comply with order to perform under the terms of a settlement agreement); Queens Syndicate Co. v. Herman, 691 F.Supp.2d 283 (D. Mass. 2010) (ordering party to execute mutual release within 14 days and providing that release otherwise would be deemed executed by that date); Big-D Constr. Corp. v. Take It For Granite Too, No. 2:11-cv-621, 2013 WL 4519339 (D. Nev. Aug. 23, 2013) (deeming settlement agreement fully executed upon party's failure to fully execute settlement documents).

(Decision and Order at 12 n.12.) Defendants, therefore, were on notice that if they did not sign the settlement documents as ordered, the Court could deem the documents signed and could impose additional sanctions.

         Based on the record filed in support of Plaintiffs' motion, the Court is convinced that Defendants received the settlement documents, and, consistent with Defendants' repeated disregard for the Court's prior orders, Defendants have deliberately refused to execute the documents. The Court is also satisfied that without the relief requested by Plaintiffs, the documents necessary to confirm and implement the parties' settlement would remain unsigned by Defendants. The Court, therefore, will deem the documents necessary to implement the settlement signed by Defendants. Queens Syndicate Co. v. Herman, 691 F.Supp.2d 283 (D. Mass. 2010) (ordering party to execute mutual release within 14 days and providing that release otherwise would be deemed executed by that date); Big-D Constr. Corp. v. Take It For Granite Too, No. 2:11-cv-621, 2013 WL 4519339 (D. Nev. Aug. 23, 2013) (deeming settlement agreement fully executed upon party's failure to fully execute settlement documents).

         As explained in the Decision and Order, despite the Court's prior imposition of sanctions and conclusion that Defendants made “repeated meritless filings designed to delay compliance with the Court's sanction order, ” (1:12-cv-229-GZS, Order of Dismissal at 2, ECF No. 128), Defendants consistently made baseless and frivolous filings. (Decision and Order at 9.) Given the filings' lack of merit and the nature of the filings, [2] the filings can fairly be characterized as vexatious and made in bad faith. The Court, therefore, will impose the sanctions referenced in the Decision and Order, and sanctions for Defendants' deliberate disregard for the Court's order directing Defendants to sign the settlement documents.[3]See Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 690 n.14 (1978) (“An equity court has the unquestioned power to award attorney's fees against a party who shows bad faith by delaying or disrupting the litigation or by hampering enforcement of a court order.”); Dubois v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 270 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2001) (court can award attorney's fees to a prevailing party “when the losing party has acted in bad faith, ...


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