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Sutton v. Federal Debt Assistance Association, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 7, 2018

RUSSELL SUTTON, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL DEBT ASSISTANCE ASSOCIATION, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiffs Russell Sutton, Elizabeth Carollo, and Michael Johnson originally brought suit against Defendants Federal Debt Assistance Association, LLC (“FDAA”), Vincent Piccione, David Piccione, and Robert Pantoulis, (collectively, “Defendants”), for breach of contract and alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”). This case was referred to me for all proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636 and Local Rules 301 and 302 by Judge Richard D. Bennett. (ECF No. 28). Plaintiff Sutton and Defendant FDAA are the only parties that have filed their respective consents to my jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 32 & 50).[1] The consents from Defendants Vincent Piccione, David Piccione, and Robert Pantoulis remain outstanding.

         Plaintiff Sutton previously filed his Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement, (ECF No. 62), a dispositive motion. Given that not all parties had consented to my jurisdiction, Judge Bennett asked that I address the disposition of that Motion in the form of a Report and Recommendation. I recommended that Judge Bennett grant Plaintiff's Motion, (ECF No. 65), and Judge Bennett adopted that recommendation in full by his Order entered May 23, 2018, (ECF No. 69).

         Now pending before this Court is Plaintiff Sutton's Motion for Judgment and for Contempt, (ECF No. 72), and Motion for Sanctions, (ECF No. 73). Defendants have not filed any responses, and the deadline has now passed. See Loc. R. 105.2(a) (D. Md. 2016). Judge Bennett has again asked that I address the disposition of the Motions in form of a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons that follow, I respectfully recommend that the Court GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment and for Contempt and GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 16, 2018, a settlement conference was held in this case before Judge Beth P. Gesner. Plaintiff Sutton and Defendant David Piccione, on behalf of himself and FDAA, attended the conference. Although Defendants Vincent Piccione and Robert Pantoulis did not personally attend, Nathanial K. Risch, Esq. attended on their behalf.[2] Plaintiff and Defendants reached and ultimately signed a settlement agreement drafted by Judge Gesner at the conference. Part of the settlement agreement required Defendants to pay the settlement amount of $10, 000 into their counsel's IOLTA account within ten days of the settlement conference. Defendants have, thus far, failed to provide the settlement amount to their counsel for placement in the IOLTA account. On February 20, 2018, the Court entered an Order scheduling a second settlement conference and requiring that Defendants attend. (ECF No. 51). The second settlement conference was held on February 26, 2018. At the conference, Defendants claimed they did not have the requisite funds to pay the settlement amount to which the parties agreed.

         On March 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement. (ECF Nos. 62, 63). Defendants did not file any response to the Motion. On May 23, 2018, the Court entered an Order granting Plaintiff's Motion and directing Defendants to make payment of the settlement amount to the Court within thirty (30) days of the Court's Order. (ECF No. 69). Notwithstanding that Order, no payment has been made to date. On July 16, 2018, Plaintiff Sutton filed his Motion for Judgment and for Contempt and Motion for Sanctions. (ECF Nos. 72, 73). Defendants have again failed to respond in any fashion to Plaintiff's Motions.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Civil Contempt

         Plaintiff first filed his Motion for Judgment and for Contempt. (ECF No. 72). “Civil contempt is an appropriate sanction if we can point to an order of this Court which ‘set[s] forth in specific detail an unequivocal command' which a party has violated.” In re General Motors Corp., 61 F.3d 256, 258 (4th Cir. 1995). To establish civil contempt, the following elements must be shown by clear and convincing evidence:

(1) The existence of a valid decree of which the alleged contemnor had actual or constructive knowledge;
(2) The decree was in the movant's favor;
(3) The alleged contemnor violated the terms of the decree, by its conduct, and had knowledge ...

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