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Cooper v. State of Hawaii Department of Taxation

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 18, 2019

MARIO COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENFORCE SETTLEMENT

          JILL A. OTAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 25, 2019, Magistrate Judge Rom Trader issued a Findings and Recommendations to Grant Defendants' Motion to Enforce Settlement (“F&R”). ECF No. 126. Plaintiff Mario Cooper (“Plaintiff”) filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations (“Objections”) on October 4, 2019. ECF No. 127. For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES the Objections and ADOPTS the F&R.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 25, 2019, Magistrate Judge Trader held a settlement conference, at which the parties reached a settlement that they placed on the record. ECF No. 107. During the settlement on the record, Magistrate Judge Trader stated the following material terms: (1) an $80, 000 payment to Plaintiff; (2) a non-disparagement provision, which would require the Department of Taxation and Department of Human Resources to respond in a neutral manner to any inquiries concerning Plaintiff's prior employment with the Department of Taxation, and prohibit any suggestion or confirmation Plaintiff's termination; (3) Plaintiff's preclusion from reapplying for employment with the Department of Taxation or Department of Human Resources but not other positions in state government or elsewhere; (4) dismissal of this and all related cases, with the exception of Plaintiff's worker's compensation case; (5) each party to bear its own fees and costs. ECF No. 111 at 2-4. Magistrate Judge Trader also explained that he planned to retain jurisdiction for the limited purpose of resolving any disputes relating to the enforcement of the settlement. Id. at 4:4-8.

         Both Plaintiff and defense counsel assented to these terms. Id. at 4-5. When Magistrate Judge Trader asked Plaintiff if the terms were satisfactory to him, Plaintiff responded in the affirmative. Id. at 4:22-25. In a subsequent inquiry, Magistrate Judge Trader confirmed that Plaintiff understood and was agreeable to the settlement terms:

THE COURT: Okay. Now, with that, Mr. Cooper, have you understood all of the terms that the Court just stated?
MR. COOPER: Yes, I have.
THE COURT: And is that your full and complete understanding of the terms that you have agreed to in exchange for resolution of this case and the other related cases, sir?
MR. COOPER: Yes.
THE COURT: All right. And do you consent or agree to resolve this case and the other cases consistent with those terms?
MR. COOPER: I agree.

Id. at 5:10-20.

         On July 10, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement. ECF No. 109. Plaintiff opposed the motion on the following grounds: (1) the proposed settlement agreement does not meet the Lynn's Food Store, Inc. v. United States, 679 F.2d 1350 (11th Cir. 1982) standard because it is not a fair and reasonable compromise over the issue of damages; (2) he could not waive his right to backpay and liquidated damages because Defendants did not dispute that they owed him the wages; (3) an oral agreement is not a stipulated judgment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Plaintiff objects to the release; and (4) defense counsel did not have settlement authority. ECF No. 112.

         Magistrate Judge Trader issued his F&R following a hearing on the motion. He determined that the parties entered into a valid and binding settlement agreement. ECF No. 126 at 5-7. He also found that the settlement of Plaintiff's FLSA claim was a ...


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