Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Federal Court: Now Is Not the Best Time to Ask Courts to Resolve "Minor Differences"

By Eugene Volokh - March 25, 2020 at 09:10AM

In Harnois v. Univ. of Mass. at Dartmouth (D. Mass.), plaintiff sued alleging wrongful Title IX discipline, and largely defeated a motion to dismiss. He eventually agreed to settle for $50,000 in damages plus $20,000 for attorney fees, but is trying to revisit the settlement on the grounds that the agreement left him responsible for tax payments, which he thought would not be part of the deal. Here is Judge Richard G. Stearns' order on Monday:

The court regrets what apparently is a misunderstanding grounded in the tax consequences of the settlement agreement in this case. Tax consequences are not ordinarily a matter in which the court involves itself given the unique personal circumstances that typically attach in matters of tax liability.

As the parties are no doubt aware, the court is presently engaged by a public health emergency statewide and national in scope related to the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, all civil and criminal cases have been stayed for at least 60 days by order of the Chief Judge with only criminal matters involving urgent liberty interests being heard.

The court will turn its attention back to this case and others of similar magnitude in due but likely distant course. In the interim, the parties may wish to set aside their minor differences over implementing a reasonable settlement agreement in deference to the public interest in permitting the court system to function without unnecessary distraction.

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