Chavez v. Albuquerque Public Schools et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS by Magistrate Judge Steven C. Yarbrough. Objections to R&R due by 10/5/2017. Add 3 days to the deadline if service is by mailing it to the person's last known address (or means described in Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(D) and (F)); if service is by electronic means, no additional days are added. (Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d); Fed. R. Crim. P. 45(c).) (cm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
CLARE CHAVEZ, as parent and guardian
of Ms. Leila A. Blair, an incapacitated child,
Cause No.: 1:16-cv-863 KG/SCY
ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
THIS MATTER is before the Court following a fairness hearing held on September 15,
2017. On March 9, 2017, the parties filed notice that the claims in this matter had been settled.
Doc. 29. On April 7, 2017, Raynard Struck was appointed guardian ad litem. Doc. 31. Mr.
Struck submitted his guardian ad litem report on August 8, 2017. Doc. 32. Based on Mr.
Struck’s report and the testimony delivered at the hearing, I recommend finding that the
settlement is fair and in the best interest of the child. I accordingly recommend that the Court
approve the settlement.
The Court reviews settlements involving minor children and incapacitated persons for
fairness. See Garcia v. Middle Rio Grande Conservancy Dist., 1983-NMCA-047, ¶ 30, 664 P.2d
1000 (“In passing upon settlements dealing with claims or rights of minors, the court must
determine whether the approval of a compromise would be in the best interests and welfare of
the minor child.”), overruled on other grounds by Montoya v. AKAL Sec., Inc., 1992-NMSC-056,
838 P.2d 971; N.M. Stat. Ann. § 38-4-16 (settlement on behalf of an incapacitated person is
“subject to the approval of the court in which the suit is pending”). In reviewing whether a
proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, the Court considers “(1) whether the
proposed settlement was fairly and honestly negotiated; (2) whether serious questions of law and
fact exist; (3) whether the value of an immediate recovery outweighs the mere possibility of
future relief after protracted and expensive litigation; and (4) the judgment of the parties that the
settlement is fair and reasonable.” Jones v. Nuclear Pharmacy, Inc., 741 F.2d 322 (10th Cir.
This case involves allegations that a substitute teacher at Rudolfo Anaya Elementary
School dragged minor Leila Blair across the classroom floor. Doc. 1-1. During the fairness
hearing on September 15, 2017, I received testimony from the child’s guardian, Claire Chavez.
Ms. Chavez testified that she understood the terms of the settlement, knowingly and voluntarily
entered into the settlement, and that she believed that the settlement was in the best interest of the
child. Furthermore, for the reasons described more fully in the guardian ad litem report (Doc.
32), Mr. Struck opined that the settlement is fair and reasonable and in the child’s best interests
and recommended that the Court approve the settlement. Doc. 32. Having considered the terms
of the proposed settlement, the evidence presented at the hearing, and Mr. Struck’s report, the
Court agrees that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and in the child’s best interests. Consistent
with the factors set out in Jones, I recommend finding that: (1) the proposed settlement was
fairly and honestly negotiated; (2) serious questions of law and fact exist placing the ultimate
outcome of the litigation in doubt; (3) the value of an immediate recovery outweighs the mere
possibility of future relief after protracted and expensive litigation; and (4) the settling parties
agree that the settlement is fair and reasonable.
Accordingly, I hereby recommend as follows:
The settlement, as outlined in the Report of Guardian Ad Litem (Doc. 32) is
hereby approved as being fair, reasonable, and in the best interest of the minor, Leila Blair.
2. The Guardian Ad Litem is hereby discharged of his duties and his fees shall be paid
by the Defendant.
/s/ Steven Yarbrough_________________
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE PARTIES ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED THAT WITHIN 14 DAYS OF
SERVICE of a copy of these Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition they may file
written objections with the Clerk of the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A
party must file any objections with the Clerk of the District Court within the fourteen-day
period if that party wants to have appellate review of the proposed findings and
recommended disposition. If no objections are filed, no appellate review will be allowed.
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