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Virginia College, LLC v. Martin

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

April 15, 2014

VIRGINIA COLLEGE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
WARREN L. MARTIN, JR., ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This dispute over post-settlement conduct is before the Court on Defendant Warren L. Martin, Jr.'s Motion for Settlement Enforcement [343] and Motion for Sanctions [344] along with Plaintiff Virginia College, LLC's Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement [347]. On January 30, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball filed a Report and Recommendation [353] recommending that the Court assess certain costs and expenses against Plaintiff Kenya Martin in favor of Virginia College but that Warren Martin's motion be denied for lack of jurisdiction. Having fully considered the premises, the Court agrees.

I. Background

Brothers Kenya and Warren Martin previously represented a large number Virginia College's former students in state-court litigation, including claims raised in Cordero Blackmon, et al. v. Virginia College et al., pending in the Circuit Court for the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, before the Honorable Judge Tomie Green. Virginia College later sued the Martins in this Court asserting various claims based on their handling of that litigation.

The parties in this suit eventually achieved a global settlement of the federal-court claims against the Martins along with the remaining state-court claims the Martins prosecuted for their clients against Virginia College. The parties signed a Confidential Settlement Agreement in March 2013, and the Court entered an order of dismissal February 25, 2013, "specifically retain[ing] jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement." Order of Dismisal [340].

The current dispute arose in April 2013, when Kenya Martin filed an attorney lien in the Blackmon litigation. In it, Martin asserted a claim against Virginia College and/or his brother Warren Martin for $30, 000.00 in attorney's fees associated with his representation of the Blackmon plaintiffs, and also seeking another $50, 000.00 that did not appear to be part of his claim for fees. Instead, Kenya Martin initially claimed that the money related to a side deal with Virginia College for the malicious prosecution of the Martins in federal court.

Believing that Kenya Martin had breached the settlement agreement related to the federal claims, Virginia College opposed the attorney lien in state court. Kenya Martin thereafter amended his state-court pleadings, changing the description of his claim for the additional $50, 000.00, and stating that it was actually for fees in Blackmon and nothing else. Though he now seems to acknowledge that the initial notice sought money from Virginia College for something other than Blackmon fees, he points to this amended pleading and urges the Court to find that he never sought additional damages from Virginia College.

Both Warren Martin and Virginia College took issue with Kenya Martin's efforts and filed the pending motions. On referral, Judge Ball concluded that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Warren Martin's motion to enforce; Virginia College is not entitled to its attorneys' fees for filing the present motion; but Virginia College is entitled to its expenses incurred in defending against the attorney lien in state court.

Neither Warren Martin nor Virginia College filed objections, so the R&R is adopted with respect to the first two recommendations as unopposed. Had Kenya Martin done the same, the Court would have simply adopted the R&R without further comment. But Kenya Martin did object, and the Court must therefore reexamine the record, which paints a less than flattering picture.

II. Analysis

Kenya Martin makes three primary objections: (1) the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Virginia College's motion; (2) the matter should not be reopened under Rule 60(b)(6); and (3) Judge Ball's conclusion that Kenya Martin breached the agreement is unsupported. None of these arguments has merit.

A. Jurisdiction

According to Kenya Martin, this Court "retained jurisdiction regarding the settlement agreement as it specifically related to the case sub judice. " Def.'s Objection [354] at 1 (emphasis in original). He then argues that "[p]arties to settlement agreements cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction to ...


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