United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge.
the Court are motions to enforce a settlement agreement
between Plaintiff Scott Nordstrom and Defendants Arizona
Department of Corrections (“ADOC”) and others,
filed by seven death-sentenced inmates: Charles Rienhardt,
Ernesto Martinez, Todd Smith, Tracy Alan Hampton, Ruben
Garza, Pete VanWinkle, and Manuel Ovante Jr. (“the
Inmates”). Docs 71, 75, 76, 80, 81, 85, 86. Some of the
Inmates have filed other motions: motions for extensions of
time to file reply briefs (Docs. 98, 99, 100, 101), motions
to desist hindering third party beneficiary's ability to
file (Docs. 87, 88), and a motion for default judgment (Doc.
96). Oral argument has not been requested. For the following
reasons, the Court will deny the motions.
October 2015, Plaintiff, a death-sentenced inmate in state
custody, brought an action against Defendants for violations
of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments related to death row
conditions. Doc. 1. Having already planned to make death row
inmates eligible for reclassification to close-custody
housing, ADOC settled with Plaintiff on March 3, 2017
(“the Settlement”). Doc. 39. The Settlement
[ADOC will] eliminate the existing permanent classification
of inmates with a death sentence to maximum custody units,
and  permit death row inmates to seek and obtain
re-classification to close custody status based on the
criteria currently available to non-death sentenced maximum
Death sentenced inmates who are re-classified to close
custody status may be housed as a group, rather than with
non-death sentenced inmates, provided, however, that nothing
herein shall alter existing protocols and procedures relating
to protective custody assignments.
[The] conditions and restrictions of confinement, and quality
of facilities, utilized for close custody housing for death
sentenced inmates shall be equivalent to that of existing
close custody housing facilities used for non-death sentenced
Plaintiff's current disciplinary record meets the
criteria for reclassification to close custody and he shall
be reclassified to such status and transferred to such
housing upon adoption of the above referenced amendments, and
within one hundred twenty (120) days of this stipulations.
Nothing in this stipulation shall be interpreted to require
Plaintiff to remain classified as a close custody inmate if
he no longer meets the requirements for close custody
Id. at 2 ¶¶ 1-3, 6. Based on this
settlement between Mr. Nordstrom and Defendants, the Court
dismissed Mr. Nordstrom's action, incorporated the
Settlement terms in its order, and retained jurisdiction to
enforce the agreement. Doc. 45.
September 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the
settlement agreement, asserting that Defendants failed to
provide “‘conditions and restrictions of
confinement, and quality of facilities' that are
‘equivalent to that of existing close custody housing
facilities used for non-death sentenced inmates.'”
Doc. 60 at 5. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion. Doc.
72. Among other holdings, the Court noted that Mr. Nordstrom,
as Plaintiff, “did not bring this case as a class
action, and the Settlement was only between Plaintiff and
Defendant.” Id. at 6.
seven motions before the Court similarly assert that
Defendants have breached the settlement agreement by failing
to provide re-classification criteria that are currently
available to non-death-sentenced, maximum-custody inmates.
general, ‘[e]nforcement of [a] settlement agreement . .
. whether through award of damages or decree of specific
performance, is more than just a continuation or renewal of
the dismissed suit, and hence requires its own basis for
jurisdiction.'” Alvarado v. Table Mountain
Racheria, 508 F.3d 1008, 1017 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 378 (1994)). But “a federal court has jurisdiction
to enforce a settlement agreement in a dismissed case when
the dismissal order incorporates the settlement terms, or the
court has retained jurisdiction over the settlement
contract” and a party alleges a violation of the
settlement. Id. Under those circumstances, a breach
of the agreement is a violation of the court's order, and
the court has jurisdiction to enforce the agreement.
Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 381. Because the Court's
order in this case incorporated the terms of the Settlement
and retained jurisdiction (Doc. 45), the Court has
jurisdiction to hear the motions. Where an order grants
relief to a nonparty, the Court may enforce the order using
the same procedures available to a party. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 71.
Arizona, “settlement agreements, including
determinations as to the validity and scope of release terms,
are governed by general contract principles.”
Emmons v. Sup. Ct. in & for Cty. of Maricopa,
968 P.2d 582, 585 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1998); Knudsen v.
C.I.R., 793 F.3d 1030, 1035 (9th Cir. 2015); see
Adams v. Johns-Manville Corp., 876 F.2d 702, 709 (9th
Cir. 1989) (a motion to enforce a settlement agreement is
essentially “an action to specifically enforce a
contract”). Interpretation of a contract is generally a
matter of law, see Powell v. Washburn, 125 P.3d 373,
375 (Ariz. ...