Agrawal v. Univ.of Okla. Board of Regents

Filing 920090610

Opinion

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U n i t e d States Court of Appeals T e n t h Circuit FILED J u n e 10, 2009 U N I T E D STATES COURT OF APPEALSl i s a b e t h A. Shumaker E F O R THE TENTH CIRCUIT C l e r k of Court N E W T O N AGRAWAL, Ph.D., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. T H E BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE U N I V E R S I T Y OF OKLAHOMA, d / b / a University of Oklahoma Health S c i e n c e s Center at Oklahoma City, Defendant-Appellee. N o . 08-6110 ( D . C . No. 5:07-CV-00728-F) ( W . D . Okla.) O R D E R AND JUDGMENT * B e f o r e KELLY, McKAY, and BRISCOE, Circuit Judges. P l a i n t i f f - A p p e l l a n t , Newton Agrawal, Ph.D., appeals from the district c o u r t ' s April 10, 2008, sealed minute entry enforcing a settlement agreement b e t w e e n himself and Defendant-Appellee, the University of Oklahoma Board of R e g e n t s (the University). The parties are familiar with the facts and the A f t e r examining the briefs and appellate record, this panel has determined u n a n i mo u s l y to grant the parties' request for a decision on the briefs without oral a r g u me n t . See Fed. R. App. P. 34(f); 10th Cir. R. 34.1(G). The case is therefore o r d e r e d submitted without oral argument. This order and judgment is not binding p r e c e d e n t , except under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and c o l l a t e r a l estoppel. It may be cited, however, for its persuasive value consistent w i t h Fed. R. App. P. 32.1 and 10th Cir. R. 32.1. * p r o c e d u r a l history of this case and we need not restate either in detail here. Suffice it to say that Mr. Agrawal sued the University in 2005, challenging his a c a d e mi c dismissal from the University's Health Sciences Center medical school. The parties entered settlement negotiations in 2007, and in early 2008, they e x e c u t e d the aforementioned settlement agreement. On April 10, 2008, the d i s t r i c t court conducted a motion hearing and ruled from the bench. Specifically, t h e court (1) held the settlement agreement final and binding on all parties, ( 2 ) denied Mr. Agrawal's "Application for Substitution of Counsel to Complete S e t t l e me n t Agreement and/or to File the Amended Petition" (because it p r e s u p p o s e d a binding settlement agreement was not in place), and (3) dismissed t h e case with prejudice. The court's decision was memorialized in the A p r i l 10, 2008, sealed minute entry. This appeal followed. We begin by addressing our appellate jurisdiction. The University c o n t e n d s this court lacks jurisdiction because Mr. Agrawal's notice of appeal f a i l e d to "designate the judgment, order, or part thereof being appealed," F e d . R. App. P. 3(c)(1)(B), and a "functional equivalent," Smith v. Barry, 5 0 2 U.S. 244, 248 (1992) (quotation omitted), was not filed within the thirty-day d e a d l i n e prescribed by Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). But where, as here, a district c o u r t fails to set out judgment in a separate document, the usual thirty-day d e a d l i n e is inapplicable. See Mondragón v. Thompson, 519 F.3d 1078, 1082 ( 1 0 t h Cir. 2008) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 58 (c)(2)(B)). Instead of thirty days, -2- M r . Agrawal had 180 days from April 10 to file a timely notice of appeal, In re T a u m o e p e a u , 523 F.3d 1213, 1216 (10th Cir. 2008), or a "functional equivalent," S m i t h , 502 U.S. at 248-49, and he did so. His July 31 "Memorandum Brief," sets f o r t h the decision being appealed and it was filed well within the applicable 180-day period. Accordingly, Mr. Agrawal's appeal is timely and we have j u r i s d i c t i o n to consider its merits. 1 " ` A trial court has the power to summarily enforce a settlement agreement e n t e r e d into by the litigants while the litigation is pending before it.'" Shoels v. K l e b o l d , 375 F.3d 1054, 1060 (10th Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Hardage, 9 8 2 F.2d 1491, 1496 (10th Cir. 1993)). We review the "decision to enforce such a n agreement for an abuse of discretion." Shoels, 375 F.3d at 1060. "An abuse of d i s c r e t i o n occurs when the district court based its decision on an erroneous c o n c l u s i o n of law or where there is no rational basis in the evidence for the r u l i n g . " Id. (quotation omitted). E v e n though the district court did not enter judgment dismissing this action a s settled, see, e.g., Heuser v. Kephart, 215 F.3d 1186, 1189 (10th Cir. 2000), its mi n u t e entry resolved all matters as to all parties and left "nothing for the court to d o but execute the judgment," Graham v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., 5 0 1 F.3d 1153, 1156 (10th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 1650 (2008). As such, the minute entry is a final appealable order under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. See id. at 1157 (When considering whether a decision is final, our analysis is g o v e r n e d by "the substance of the district court's decision, not its label or form." ( q u o t a t i o n omitted)). -3- 1 " I s s u e s involving the formation and construction of a purported settlement a g r e e me n t are resolved by applying state contract law." Id. "[A]bsent fraud, d u r e s s , undue influence, or mistake," neither party is permitted to repudiate a s e t t l e me n t agreement. Whitehorse v. Johnson, 156 P.3d 41, 46 (Okla. 2007). H a v i n g reviewed the briefs, the appendices, and applicable law in light of t h e above-mentioned standards, we hold that Mr. Agrawal has not identified any r e v e r s i b l e error in this case. Simply stated, the district court did not abuse its d i s c r e t i o n in enforcing the parties' settlement agreement because there is a " r a t i o n a l basis in the evidence" supporting its decision. Shoels, 375 F.3d at 1060. We therefore AFFIRM the district court's April 10, 2008, decision for s u b s t a n t i a l l y the same reasons as stated in its ruling from the bench and in its s e a l e d minute entry memorializing that ruling. Further, we GRANT the parties' motions to seal their respective briefs and t h e University's motion to seal its supplemental appendix. All other outstanding mo t i o n s are DENIED as moot. E n t e r e d for the Court P a u l J. Kelly, Jr. C i r c u i t Judge -4-

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