United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE
Judge Lincoln D. Almond filed a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) (ECF No. 88) in this case,
recommending the Court overrule all objections to the terms
of the proposed settlement agreement and grant the
parties' Joint Motion for Final Approval of the
Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 85). Prospective claimant
Jayson Badillo has objected (ECF No. 93) to the R&R. For
the following reasons, the Court accepts the R&R over
United States brought this action against Rhode Island,
challenging aspects of the hiring process the state used to
select entry-level correctional officers. The United States
alleged that the at-issue processes had a disparate impact on
minority candidates, in violation of Title VII. After
extensive discovery, some motion practice, and one failed
settlement conference, the parties reached a settlement after
Magistrate Judge Almond held a second conference.
settlement agreement presented to the Court requires Rhode
Island to implement a hiring process that complies with Title
VII, to hire up to thirty-seven prospective claimants, and to
provide monetary relief of $450, 000 to be distributed pro
rata. (See ECF No. 80-1.)
objects that the proposed settlement is substantively
inadequate and the product of unfair procedure. The Court
reviews Magistrate Judge Almond's recommended disposition
de novo, Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3), and decides whether the
settlement is “fair, reasonable, and adequate, ”
Hutchinson ex rel. Julien v. Patrick, 636 F.3d 1, 10
(1st Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted), even if not
“the settlement . . . which the court itself might have
fashioned, or considers as ideal, ” United States
v. Cannons Eng'g Corp., 899 F.2d 79, 84 (1st Cir.
1990). In so doing, the Court “must exercise some
deference to the [United States]'s determination that
settlement is appropriate . . . and refrain from
second-guessing the Executive Branch.” Conservation
Law Found. of New England, Inc. v. Franklin, 989 F.2d
54, 58 (1st Cir. 1993) (citation and quotation marks
omitted). The Court is also mindful of “the policy of
the law to encourage settlements, ” especially where,
as here, “a government actor committed to the
protection of the public interest has pulled the laboring oar
in constructing the proposed settlement.” Cannons
Eng'g, 899 F.2d at 84.
close review of the proposed settlement, hearing transcript,
and the relevant submissions, the Court concludes that the
settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. As the parties
point out, Badillo objects to a different case. For example,
he cites myriad authority concerning the propriety of relief
provided after a finding as to liability. See, e.g.,
Chin v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 685 F.3d 135,
140-41 (2d Cir. 2012); Anderson v. Brennan, 254
F.Supp.3d 253, 255-56 (D. Mass. 2017); United States v.
R.I. Dep't of Emp't Sec., 619 F.Supp. 509, 511
(D.R.I. 1985). Here, there is no such finding. The parties
stipulated to the plaintiff's prima facie case, but did
not do so as to the rest of plaintiff's disparate-impact
claim. See Jones v. City of Bos., 752 F.3d 38, 54
(1st Cir. 2014) (“Once a plaintiff has made a prima
facie showing of a disparate impact, the burden shifts to the
employer to show that the challenged practice is job related
for the position in question and consistent with business
necessity. If the employer makes such a showing, a plaintiff
has one final path to success, by proving the existence of an
alternative employment practice . . . .” (citation and
quotation marks omitted)). On the contrary, the parties
aggressively litigated these issues. Unlike the cases Badillo
cites, the merits remained unresolved while the parties
negotiated a settlement. Entirely inappropriate, then, is a
comparison between what a plaintiff without a favorable
liability judgment negotiated and what plaintiffs who
prevailed as to liability won in damages.
also cites cases involving only private parties. See,
e.g., In re Pet Food Prods. Liab. Litig., 629
F.3d 333, 336 (3d Cir. 2010); In re Wireless Tel. Fed.
Cost Recovery Litig., 396 F.3d 922, 926 (8th Cir. 2005);
Cotter v. Lyft, Inc., 176 F.Supp.3d 930, 931 (N.D.
Cal. 2016). These cases are inapposite insofar as any
settlement reached is afforded less deference than the one
here, where a government plaintiff has done the negotiating.
highlights Ross v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 267
F.Supp.3d 174 (D.D.C. 2017), as a case the Court should use
to guide its determination of the proposed settlement's
fairness. Ross is of little help, however. In that
case, the court rejected a proposed agreement to settle a
disparate-impact claim brought by a current and former
employee of Lockheed Martin against the company. Id.
at 179-80. But there, the negotiated settlement contemplated
that plaintiffs (and those in their proposed class) would
“release a broad swath of potential legal claims
against the company, including claims that ha[d] nothing
whatsoever to do with [the employment practice at
issue].” Id. at 179. The Ross
settlement also punished class members who failed to respond
to the class notice. Id. at 202. A non-respondent
would “release all of [her] race discrimination claims
against Lockheed Martin[, and would] also become ineligible
to recover any compensation from the settlement fund.”
Id. (emphasis omitted). In short, the similarities
between Ross and this case begin and end with the
fact that, in both, plaintiffs bring disparate-impact claims.
also complains about Magistrate Judge Almond holding the
fairness hearing when he had previously held the settlement
conference from which the agreement sprang. Badillo again
cites inapposite cases - where, for example, a judge recused
himself because his prior involvement in the parties'
settlement negotiations turned him into a potential fact
witness on a subsequent motion, Decker v. GE Healthcare
Inc., 770 F.3d 378, 390 (6th Cir. 2014), or where a
judge was to try a case he worked to settle, Becker v.
Tidewater, Inc., 405 F.3d 257, 260 (5th Cir. 2005) .
Magistrate Judge Almond is not at risk of being called as a
fact witness. Nor is he in line to try this case. Indeed, he
is not even disposing of it, but rather providing this Court
a recommended disposition. Nothing in the record suggests
that Magistrate Judge Almond did other than hear, carefully
consider, and, ultimately, overrule the objections made to
the settlement agreement.
Court ACCEPTS Magistrate Judge Almond's R&R for the
foregoing reasons. Objections to the settlement agreement are
hereby overruled, and the parties' Joint Motion for Final
Approval of Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 85) GRANTED.