United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Waco Division
PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's Opposed Motion for an order that
Plaintiff Luther Evans Show Cause as to Why He Should Not Be
Found in Contempt. (Dkt. 35). Defendant informs the Court
that Mr. Evans refuses to sign a release of claims against
the Defendant United States of America that is part of a
settlement in this case and asks the Court to issue an order
that Mr. Evans show cause as to why he should not be held in
contempt of court for his refusal to sign.
Luther Evans and Jaida Evans, individually and as next
friends of J.E., a minor, filed this claim on November 11,
2015, against Defendant United States of America. In their
complaint, they allege that J.E. suffered a severe and
permanent injury to his left arm during his delivery at the
Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center due to negligence.
Plaintiffs' complaint seeks damages including medical
expenses, and past and future pain and suffering.
August 22, 2016, the parties filed a joint report on
mediation, informing the Court that they had reached a
settlement. (Dkt. 18). This document was signed by counsel
for both sides on behalf of the parties. At the time, the
parties also noted that appointment of a guardian ad litem
would likely be necessary to represent the interests of J.E.
with respect to the settlement. Shortly afterward, Plaintiffs
filed an unopposed motion for appointment of a guardian ad
litem in the case. (Dkt. 19). Within this motion, Plaintiffs
again represented that “the parties have agreed to
settle this case, ” and requested the appointment of a
guardian ad litem in order to protect the interests of J.E.
(Dkt. 19, at 3).
the Court granted the motion and the guardian ad litem's
report was filed, the Court held a settlement approval
hearing on February 7, 2017. (Dkt. 19). At the hearing, it
was undisputed that the parties had previously agreed to a
settlement of the remaining claims. However, when Plaintiff
Luther Evans was testifying, he expressed doubt as to whether
the settlement was in J.E.'s best interest and indicated
that he was no longer in support of the settlement because of
the guardian ad litem's recommendation that a large
portion of the settlement would be invested to pay for
J.E.'s post-secondary education, rather than be released
to Mr. and Mrs. Evans in cash immediately. Despite Mr. Evans
testimony, the Court approved of the settlement in light of
the testimony of Mr. Evans' wife and co-plaintiff, Jaida
Evans, and the guardian ad litem. An order approving of the
proposed settlement agreement was entered February 13, 2017.
the Court's approval of the settlement, Defendant filed a
motion for enforcement of the settlement agreement requesting
that the Court order Plaintiff Luther Evans to sign the
finalized settlement agreement. The motion was unopposed and
the Court granted the motion on April 4, 2017. (Dkt. 34).
pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for an
order that Plaintiff Luther Evans show cause as to why he
should not be found in contempt for his continued refusal to
sign the finalized settlement agreement.
MOTION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
informs the Court that Mr. Evans still refuses to sign the
finalized settlement agreement, despite the Court's prior
order that he do so. They request that the Court issue an
order for Plaintiff Luther Evans to show cause as to why he
should not be found in contempt.
is settled law that the power to punish for contempt is an
inherent power of the federal courts and that it includes the
power to punish violations of their own orders.”
United States v. Fidanian, 465 F.2d 755, 757 (5th
Cir. 1972) (citing Green v. United States, 356 U.S.
165 (1958)). However, as “a creature of [the
court's] inherent power, ” see In re
Bradley, 588 F.3d 254, 265 (5th Cir. 2009), a district
court has broad discretion in determining when to hold a
party in civil contempt. Test Masters Educ. Servs., Inc.
v. Singh, 428 F.3d 559, 581 (5th Cir. 2005).
movant in a civil contempt proceeding bears the burden of
establishing by clear and convincing evidence 1) that a court
order was in effect, 2) that the order required certain
conduct by the respondent, and 3) that the respondent failed
to comply with the court's order.” Id. at
581-82. (quoting Martin v. Trinity Indus., Inc., 959
F.2d 45, 47 (5th Cir. 1992)). “The evidence must be
‘so clear, direct and weighty and convincing as to
enable the fact finder to come to a clear conviction, without
hesitancy, of the truth of the precise facts of the
case.'” Id. at 582 (quoting Piggly
Wiggly Clarksville, Inc. v. Mrs. Baird's Bakeries,
177 F.3d 380, 383 (5th Cir.1999)).
asks this Court to set a contempt proceeding, ask Mr. Evans
to show at the hearing why he should not be held in contempt
for his failure to sign the final settlement agreement and
release of claims, and to hold him in contempt for his
failure to do so.
point, the Court has no evidence that Mr. Evans has had a
meaningful opportunity to sign the final settlement agreement
and release of claims, and has declined to do so even after
this Court's order for him to sign. Regardless, it is
unclear to the Court that holding a contempt proceeding is
necessary in this case, when the relief Defendant seeks is
the release of Mr. Evans claims and the enforcement of the
settlement agreement. The Court will ...