United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EDWARD E. BELLARDINE, Plaintiff,
WILBUR ROSS, SECRETARY U.S. DEPT. OF COMMERCE, Defendant.
G. SMITH, J.
plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit because he believes the
defendant wrongfully denied him employment in 2010 in its
Berks County office. He pursued this allegation for
approximately six years prior to filing his complaint in
federal court. Shortly after filing his complaint, the
parties resolved this longstanding dispute during a
settlement conference before the Honorable Timothy R. Rice in
late 2017. As part of the agreement, the defendant agreed to
allow the plaintiff to apply for a job without the defendant
first advertising the position to the general public. Because
the defendant was not advertising this job, the parties
understood that the plaintiff would be the only applicant. He
only needed to submit an application, take an employment
test, and the job would be his. The defendant also agreed to
pay the plaintiff $1, 000.
notification that the parties had settled the case, the court
entered an order dismissing the action with prejudice under
Local Civil Rule 41.1(b). Subsequently, the plaintiff came to
believe that the defendant had misrepresented a material term
of the agreement. More specifically, he believed the
defendant had promised him that it no longer employed any
individual in the Berks County office who had been involved
with his 2010 employment application. The plaintiff contends
he discovered that this representation was false.
Accordingly, the plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the Rule
41.1(b) order dismissing the case. The undersigned held an
evidentiary hearing on the motion. After considering the
evidence presented at the hearing, the court determines that
the plaintiff has not clearly and convincingly shown that the
defendant misrepresented a material fact pertaining to the
settlement. Accordingly, the court will deny the motion to
9, 2017, the plaintiff, Edward E. Bellardine
(“Bellardine”), proceeding pro se,
commenced this action by filing an application to proceed
in forma pauperis (“IFP”) and a proposed
complaint. Doc. No. 1. The court granted the
application to proceed IFP on May 19, 2017, and directed the
clerk of court to file the complaint. See May 19, 2017
Order, Doc. No. 2. Later that day, Bellardine filed a request
to have the court appoint counsel to represent him. Doc. No.
4. In response to Bellardine's request, the court
referred the matter to the employment panel and stayed the
case for up to 90 days pending the appointment of
counsel. See May 25, 2017 Order at 1-2,
Doc. No. 5. Prior to the expiration of the 90-day period,
Attorney Patrick M. Harrington agreed to represent Bellardine
and accordingly, the court appointed him as Bellardine's
counsel on August 28, 2017. See Aug. 28, 2017 Order,
Doc. No. 10. The court also directed the clerk of court to
return the case to the court's active docket. See
Attorney Harrington, Bellardine filed an amended complaint on
October 2, 2017. Doc. No. 17. In the amended complaint,
Bellardine asserted that the defendant, the United States
Department of Commerce (“the Department”),
violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it
failed to employ him as a field representative. See Am.
Compl. at 5.
November 14, 2017, the parties met with the Honorable Timothy
R. Rice for a settlement conference. The parties reached an
agreement before Magistrate Judge Rice, but the agreement was
not placed on the record. As the parties had agreed to settle
the case, this court entered an order dismissing the action
with prejudice under Local Civil Rule 41.1(b) on November 15,
2017. Doc. No. 19.
the parties having resolved their dispute and the court
having closed the case, Attorney Harrington filed a motion to
withdraw as Bellardine's counsel on January 29, 2018.
Doc. No. 24. His motion indicated that he and Bellardine had
reached an impasse. See Mot. to Withdraw as Attorney
to the court holding a hearing on the motion to withdraw,
Attorney Harrington, in an effort to preserve
Bellardine's legal rights, filed a motion pursuant to
Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to
vacate the Rule 41.1(b) order dismissing the case.
See Mot. to Vacate Order Dismissing Case
(“Pl.'s Mot.”), Doc. No. 28. Three days
later, Bellardine filed an affidavit in support of the motion
that Attorney Harrington had prepared for him. See
Aff. of Edward E. Bellardine (“Bellardine Aff.”),
Doc. No. 29. Specifically, Attorney Harrington drafted
paragraphs one through fourteen of the affidavit, and
Bellardine added a fifteenth paragraph that purported to
“correct . . . the above numbered paragraphs” and
provide “additional information.” Id. at
February 14, 2018, the court held a hearing on the motion to
withdraw. At the hearing, it was revealed that Bellardine
believed that the Department had materially misrepresented a
term of the settlement agreement and accordingly, had refused
to sign the Department's memorialization of the
settlement agreement. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
court granted the motion to withdraw and subsequently entered
a written order memorializing the court's oral ruling.
Doc. No. 30.
court held an initial evidentiary hearing on the motion to
vacate the order dismissing the case on May 3, 2018, and a
continuation of the evidentiary hearing on May 29, 2018.
During the two hearing days, the court heard sworn testimony
from three witnesses: Bellardine, Rosa Estrada, and Attorney
Harrington. See May 3, 2018 Tr. of Evidentiary
Hr'g (“Tr. I”) at 2, Doc. No. 45; May 29,
2018 Tr. of Evidentiary Hr'g (“Tr. II”) at 2,
Doc. No. 46. Upon the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing,
the court ordered the parties to file proposed findings of
fact and conclusions of law. Doc. No. 44. Bellardine timely
filed his proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on
June 27, 2018, and the Department filed its proposed findings
of fact and conclusions of law on July 6, 2018. See
Findings of Fact and Conclusions, Doc. No. 48; Def.'s
Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, Doc. No.
49. The motion to vacate the Rule 41.1(b) order dismissing
the case is now ripe for adjudication.
FINDINGS OF FACT
parties appeared before Magistrate Judge Rice on November 14,
2017, for a settlement conference. See Nov. 14, 2017
Minute Entry, Doc. No. 20; Tr. I at 27.
the settlement conference, the parties agreed to settle case.
See Tr. I at 65.
settlement agreement was not placed on the record.
agreement contained the following terms:
a. The Department would pay Bellardine $1, 000, see
b. The Department would give Bellardine the opportunity to
apply for a Field Representative Position working on the
Survey of Income and Program Participation
(“SIPP”) within the Berks County ...