United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the various pending motions before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. (ECF
Nos. 97, 101, 102, and 103). Because the Motion was contested
(ECF No. 108), the Court held a plenary hearing to receive
evidence and hear the parties' arguments. The matter is
fully briefed and the evidentiary record is now sufficient to
rule on the matter. As explained below, the Court finds that
a settlement agreement was reached. Accordingly, the Court
will enforce that agreement. However, as there still remain
questions regarding the compliance with the settlement
agreement, the Court will refer to the Magistrate Judge
certain issues detailed below.
matter commenced with the filing of a pro se
complaint by Monique Weldon (“Plaintiff”).
Compl., Aug. 18, 2016, ECF No. 3. Plaintiff made
various allegations in her complaint concerning unlawful
treatment by prison staff during her incarceration at Lakin
Correctional Center, in West Columbia, West
Virginia. In November of 2016, Paul Strobel, an
attorney who has experience handling civil claims of
incarcerated individuals, met with Plaintiff to discuss her
claims before this Court. Hr'g. Tr., ECF No.
141, at 4. On December 13, 2016, Mr. Strobel entered a notice
of appearance on behalf of Plaintiff (ECF No. 70), and
subsequently amended the complaint. (ECF. No. 77).
one of their meetings in late February or early March, Mr.
Strobel and Plaintiff discussed the possibility of
settlement. Hr'g. Tr. at 6-9, 73. In this
discussion, Plaintiff communicated to Mr. Strobel that any
potential settlement would have to include the agreement of
the West Virginia Department of Corrections
(“WVDOC”) to expunge a behavioral infraction from
her record. Hr'g. Tr. at 6-12, 15-16.
Specifically, Plaintiff wanted a “fraudulent
representation” infraction expunged that was submitted
on September 9, 2016. Hr'g. Tr. at 7, 55-56.
This infraction arose from Plaintiff's filing of an
administrative complaint about one of the alleged incidents
of mistreatment that gave rise to this suit. Id.
the potential for a settlement based upon this essential term
was time constrained. Plaintiff had a parole hearing on March
13, 2017. If she was to receive the benefit of the dismissed
infraction, the settlement had to be reached quickly enough
to allow for sufficient time for recalculation of her Level
of Service/ Case Management Inventory (“LSCMI”),
a risk assessment tool used to determine the appropriateness
of parole. Plaintiff believed that by erasing this
infraction, her LSCMI score would lower, thus increasing her
chances of receiving parole. Hr'g. Tr. at 7-9,
109-10, 122. After consulting with his client, Mr. Strobel
made demand upon defense counsel that included a monetary
component and expungement of the infraction on or around
March 6, 2017. Hr'g. Def.'s Ex. 2, ECF No.
137-3, at 1; Hr'g. Tr. at 9-10. Defense counsel
countered, and after some additional negotiation, Mr. Strobel
and counsel for the defendants agreed to the terms of a
settlement on March 9, 2017. As recited in a March 10 email
confirming the agreement reached, the WVDOC agreed to the
1. Payment of $5, 000.00;
2. Expunging from her record the disciplinary action for
“fraudulent representation” from the September 9,
2016 “bee” incident; and
3. Re-evaluating her “LSCMI” in light of the
Hr'g. Ct.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 137-1, at 2. In
consideration for those promises, Ms. Weldon had to agree to
dismiss this civil action, Case No. 3:16-cv-7887, as well as
two other pending civil actions:
(1) State of West Virginia ex rel. Monique W. v. Anne
Thomas, et. Al., Matter No. 16-0939 pending before the
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia; and (2)
Monique Nicole Weldon v. Lori Nohe, et. al., Civil
Action No. 3:16-3815, previously pending in the U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, now on
appeal before the Fourth Circuit as Case No. 16-7721.
Friday, March 10, 2017, Plaintiff called Mr. Strobel to
inform him that instead of her LSCMI going down (positive for
Plaintiff, meaning a better chance of parole), it went up
(negative for Plaintiff, meaning a reduced chance of parole).
Hr'g. Ct.'s Ex. A, at 2. Mr. Strobel reached
out to WVDOC's counsel, Ms. Lou Ann Cyrus, to confirm
that the WVDOC had met its obligations under the settlement
agreement. Ms. Cyrus initially responded that Plaintiff's
LSCMI had gone up from 17 to 21 based upon Plaintiff's
inability to obtain/maintain employment. Id.
Although the new overall LSCMI was negative for Plaintiff,
Ms. Cyrus told Mr. Strobel that “as a result of
expunging the write-up, her classification score decreased
(again, a positive movement) from a 4 to a 3, so [expunging
the “fraudulent representation” infraction] did
improve her score as anticipated.” Id. On the
day of the parole hearing, Ms. Cyrus informed Mr. Strobel
that the LSCMI was again updated that morning, “taking
into account the removal of the fraudulent representation
write-up.” Id. at 1. This time,
Plaintiff's LSCMI score was 17, “[i]nstead of
the alleged expungement of the infraction, the parole board
denied Plaintiff's application for parole. Hr'g.
Def.'s Ex. 1, at 1. Attached to the parole
board's summary decision is a list of 16 infractions she
received during incarceration. Id. at 3. The list
did not appear to include the September 9, 2016 infraction
for “fraudulent representation” that the WVDOC
had agreed to expunge.
to the parole hearing, Plaintiff had neither signed any
settlement agreement, nor filed a voluntary dismissal for any
claims. On April 5, 2017, Ms. Cyrus sent Mr. Strobel two
batches of documents. Hr'g. Def.'s Ex. 4,
ECF No. 137-5, at 1. The first was a collection of
information regarding the 16 violations that were listed in
the attachment to the parole summary decision. Id.
at 1-30. The second included a “Release of All Claims,
proposed Dismissal Order, proposed Rule 41(a) Dismissal
Order, and a settlement check in the amount of Five Thousand
Dollars ($5, 000.00.)” Id. at 3, 31-42. On
April 19, 2017, Mr. Strobel forwarded the settlement
documents, along with a copy of the settlement check, to
Plaintiff with instruction to review the agreement and sign.
Pl.'s Resp. to Counsel's Mot. to Withdraw,
ECF No. 92, at 32. In an undated letter, Plaintiff informed