United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD A. LLORET, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
September 10, 2018, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce
the settlement agreement that the parties had entered into.
See Doc. No. 43. The plaintiffs alleged that the
defendants breached the settlement agreement by failing to
pay $120, 000 by August 31, 2018. Id. They requested
that the Court enter an order directing the defendants to pay
the settlement amount, along with prejudgment interest and
attorneys' fees related to the filing of the motion to
considerable negotiation occurred in this and a related case,
by Order of May 21, 2019, I granted the plaintiffs'
motion to enforce the settlement, and provided relief
directing payment of the settlement amount, prejudgment
interest, and attorneys' fees. Doc. No. 63. By separate
order the same day, I scheduled a hearing for June 4, 2019.
Doc. No. 64. Mr. Redding did not show up for the hearing and
did not contact my chambers to explain why he did not. By
Order of June 10, 2019, I directed Bruce K. Redding, Jr., to
file an affidavit explaining why he failed to appear at the
motion hearing scheduled for June 4, 2019. Doc. No. 67. Mr.
Redding has failed to supply the affidavit on or before June
18, 2019, as commanded. The Order was mailed to Mr. Redding
at his last known address. It was returned undeliverable by
the U.S. Post Office. Doc. No. 70. It was mailed again to an
updated address on June 27, 2019. Id. (unnumbered
entry following Doc. No. 70). To date there has been no
response by Mr. Redding.
Memorandum of Law in Further Support of Plaintiffs'
Request to Hold Defendants in Contempt (Doc. No. 66) explains
Mr. Redding's various failures to abide by my orders. I
directed plaintiffs' counsel to supply additional
information by my Order of June 17, 2019. See Doc.
No. 68. Plaintiffs' counsel complied by letter on June
24, 2019, which is attached as an exhibit to this Order. The
plaintiffs' letter of June 24, 2019, details the ways in
which Mr. Redding and the other defendants have failed to
comply with my previous orders. Id.
plaintiffs' letter of June 24, 2019 reveals, the
defendants have not provided any financial statements
affirmed under oath, any financial statements certified by an
accountant as having been prepared in accordance with
generally accepted accounting principles, or any affidavit
concerning the defendants' efforts to obtain financing to
pay the defendants' settlement obligation of $120, 000.
defendants have filed nothing to suggest that they do not owe
the money they agreed to pay under the settlement agreement.
The defendants have filed nothing to suggest that the
plaintiffs' calculation of attorneys' fees and costs,
together with interest, is incorrect. See Doc. No.
66-1, at 2. I find that the defendants owe the money they
agreed to pay, and that plaintiffs' claims for
attorneys' fees and interest are appropriate. I will
discuss the issue whether the defendants, particularly Mr.
Redding, are in contempt of court, and if so, what remedy I
authority has been conferred upon magistrate judges by
statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(e). Section 636(e)(4)
addresses civil contempt authority in consent cases:
In any case in which a United States magistrate judge
presides with the consent of the parties under subsection (c)
of this section, and in any misdemeanor case proceeding
before a magistrate judge under section 3401 of title 18,
the magistrate judge may exercise the civil contempt
authority of the district court. This paragraph shall
not be construed to limit the authority of a magistrate judge
to order sanctions under any other statute, the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, or the Federal Rules of Criminal
28 U.S.C. § 636(e)(4) (emphasis added); see also
Wallace v. Kmart Corp., 687 F.3d 86, 91- 92 (3d Cir.
2012) (recognizing that magistrate judges are authorized to
“‘exercise the civil contempt authority of the
district court' in civil cases where the magistrate judge
is presiding by consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c)” (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(e)(4)).
parties consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge
for all proceedings and entry of final judgment, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). See Doc. No. 37 (reference
order). Accordingly, I have the same civil contempt authority
as a district judge.
district court has the “inherent power to enforce
compliance with their lawful orders through civil
contempt.'” Spallone v. United States, 493
U.S. 265, 276 (1990) (quoting Shillitani v. United
States, 384, U.S. 364, 370 (1996)); see also
Schutter v. Herskowitz, No. 07-3823, 2008 WL 4822012, at
*4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 6, 2008) (Strawbridge, J.). To hold an
individual in civil contempt,  the court must find that
“(1) a valid court order existed, (2) the [individual]
had knowledge of the order, and (3) the [individual]
disobeyed the order.” John T. ex. rel. Paul T. v.
Del. Cty. Intermediate Unit, 318 F.3d 545, 552 (3d Cir.
2003) (quoting Harris v. City of Phila., 47 F.3d
1311, 1326 (3d Cir. 1995)); see also Lawn Doctor, Inc. v.
Rizzo, 646 Fed.Appx. 195, 199 n.4 (3d Cir. 2016) (not
precedential). These elements must be proven by clear and
convincing evidence. Robin Woods Inc. v. Woods, 28
F.3d 396, 399 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing to Quinter v.
Volkswagen of America, 676 F.2d 969, 974 (3d Cir.
1982)). The petitioning party has the burden in civil
contempt proceedings. Lawn Doctor, Inc., 646
Fed.Appx. at 201 (citing to Howard Johnson Co., Inc. v.
Khimani, 892 F.2d 1512, 1516 (11th Cir. 1990)).
“good faith is not a defense to civil contempt, ”
see Robin Woods Inc., 28 F.3d at 399, an inability
to comply or an ambiguity in the court order may excuse
noncompliance. See United States v. Rylander, 460
U.S. 752, 757 (1983) (“Where compliance is impossible,
neither the moving party nor the court has any reason to
proceed with the civil contempt action.”); Robin
Woods Inc., 28 F.3d at 399 (“[T]here is a
‘longstanding salutary rule in contempt cases that
ambiguities and omissions in orders redound to the ...