United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION PLAINTIFF'S EMERGENCY MOTION, ECF NO. 49
F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge.
Michael Jones has filed an Emergency Motion to Stay,
requesting that the Court enjoin Defendant Office of
Vocational Rehabilitation (“OVR”) from
terminating his license to operate OVR stand #551, a vending
facility at the Philadelphia IRS building. See
Pl.'s Mot. 2, ECF No. 49. The termination of the license
was a condition of a settlement agreement Jones entered into
with Defendants to resolve the claims he raised in this case
and other related litigation, which concern Jones's
participation as a blind vendor under the Randolph-Sheppard
Act. Jones seeks to have the Court “open. . . and
reverse” the settlement agreement, contending that he
signed the agreement under duress and was unaware of its
contents. See Id. Ex. 1 (Jones's January 19,
2017 Complaint). Because Jones has not shown that he is
entitled to relief under any of the subsections of Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), the Court denies his motion.
September 2015, the Court referred this case to Magistrate
Judge Timothy R. Rice for settlement purposes. On October 27,
2015, after having received notice from Judge Rice that the
parties had reached a settlement, the Court dismissed this
case with prejudice pursuant to Local Civil Rule 41.1(b) and
ordered that Judge Rice retain jurisdiction to enforce the
settlement terms. ECF No. 39. On December 1, 2015, at the
conclusion of a settlement conference over which Judge Rice
presided, the parties signed a written settlement agreement.
Settlement Agreement, ECF No. 43. Pursuant to the settlement
agreement, Jones must cease operating OVR stand #551 by
February 10, 2017. Id. ¶ 5.
September 2016, approximately ten months after the parties
signed the settlement agreement, Jones sent an email to Judge
Rice stating that “there may be serious challenges with
this settlement agreement.” See Defs.'
Resp. Opp'n Ex. B, ECF No. 52-1. Judge Rice then held a
telephone conference at which Jones claimed, as he does in
his present motion, that he signed the agreement under duress
and was not provided with a braille copy of the agreement.
Conf. Tr. 8:15-25, ECF No. 45. In response to Jones's
claims, Judge Rice carefully reviewed the circumstances under
which the settlement agreement was negotiated and signed.
Judge Rice observed that he presided over two settlement
conferences on October 23, 2015, and December 1, 2015, which
allowed Jones ample time to confer with his family members
and with the three attorneys who represented him. In
particular, at the latter conference, at which Judge Rice,
Jones, Jones's three attorneys, Jones's wife, and
Defendants' counsel were present, the participants
“spent the better part of the day . . . discussing Mr.
Jones's concerns with the agreement and attempting to
resolve those.” Conf. Tr. 20:1-8. At the conclusion of
that conference, Jones and his attorneys signed the
agreement. Conf. Tr. 22:11-13. Judge Rice found that
Jones's attorneys were “extremely competent,
extremely patient, extremely well informed, and advocated
vigorously on behalf of Mr. Jones” and that the
attorneys “advised him of his rights and the
advisability of entering the agreement which he
signed.” Conf. Tr. 24:14-20. With respect to
Jones's claim that he was not given a braille copy of the
agreement, Judge Rice found that “the attorneys
reviewed the provisions with him.” Conf. Tr. 23:10-12.
On the basis of these findings, Judge Rice denied Jones's
request to revoke the settlement and entered an order to that
effect. ECF No. 42.
appealed Judge Rice's order to the Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit, but the Third Circuit dismissed his appeal
for lack of jurisdiction, writing as follows:
Appellant appeals from the Magistrate Judge's September
30, 2016 order. When, as here, the parties have not consented
to proceed before a magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), an appeal from a magistrate judge's order must be
made to the district court in the first instance. See
Siers v. Morrash, 700 F.2d 113, 116 (3d Cir. 1983).
Because Appellant did not appeal the Magistrate Judge's
September 30, 2016 order to the District Court, we lack
jurisdiction to review this order. See Id.
Accordingly, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of
Jones v. U.S. Dep't Educ., C.A. No. 16-4015.
then filed the present Emergency Motion in this Court. He
claims that at the December 1, 2015 settlement conference he
was “threatened and intimidated” and “was
told to sign [the agreement] because [he] had no
choice.” Pl.'s Mot. Ex. A. Jones further claims that
“[t]hey would not give [him] a braille copy [of the
agreement] to read” or allow him “to take the
document home so that someone sighted could read it to
[him].” Id. He claims that his own attorney
“never read anything to [him].” Id. On
this basis, he “ask[s] the court to open th[e]
Settlement and reverse it.” Id.
Jones does not specify the grounds on which he is seeking
relief, the Court construes his motion as seeking relief
under Rule 60(b). See Sawka v. Healtheast, Inc., 989
F.2d 138, 140 (3d Cir. 1993) (“[A]ny time a district
court enters a judgment, even one dismissing a case by
stipulation of the parties, it retains, by virtue of Rule
60(b), jurisdiction to entertain a later motion to vacate the
judgment on the grounds specified in the rule.”);
DeMatthews v. Hartford Ins. Co., 402 F. App'x
686 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (applying the court's
holding in Sawka in the context of a request to set
aside a settlement agreement); Ballard ex rel. Ballard v.
Phila. Sch. Dist., 273 F. App'x 184 (3d Cir. 2008)
60(b) provides six grounds for relief, three of which might
possibly apply here: subsection (1) “mistake,
inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect”;
subsection (3) “fraud (whether previously called
intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by
an opposing party”; and subsection (6) “any other
reason that justifies relief.” Having reviewed the
record de novo, the Court concludes that Jones has
not shown that he is entitled to relief under any of these
subsections. As set forth above, Magistrate Judge Rice held a
series of conferences at which he “was personally able
to observe [Jones] and assess his responsiveness, demeanor,
and ability to comprehend the terms of the settlement,
” see DeMatthews, 402 F. App'x at 689, and
observe the guidance provided to Jones by his attorneys in
reaching the settlement. The Court concludes that Jones
knowingly and voluntarily entered into the settlement
agreement and therefore denies his Emergency Motion. See
Id. (“It is clear that a party who is simply
‘trying to escape the effects of a bargain it regretted
in hindsight' has not demonstrated exceptional
circumstances sufficient to warrant reopening under Rule
60(b)(6).” (quoting Coltec Indus., Inc. v.
Hobgood, 280 F.3d 262, 273 (3d Cir. 2002)). A separate
 Jones initially raised these arguments
in a new complaint, which the Clerk of Court docketed as a
new civil action. See Jones v. U.S. Dep't Educ.,
No. 17-cv-00296 (E.D. Pa. filed January 19, 2017). Because
the relief Jones sought was to reopen this case, the Court
dismissed the complaint and advised Jones to raise these
issues by filing an appropriate motion in this case. Jones
then filed the present motion and attached a copy of that
dismissed complaint to the motion. Because Jones is now
acting pro se, the Court will consider the arguments raised
in both his motion and the attached complaint.
 Jones does not explicitly state who
threatened and coerced him, but the context of his remarks
suggests that he is claiming ...