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Fifth Circuit Upholds Settlement Agreement in Discrimination Suit

Robert Quesada filed a Title VII discrimination against his employer Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The District Court required both parties to complete alternative dispute resolution. At the end of the mediation, Quesada's attorney made a $5000 verbal settlement offer on the pending discrimination claims. The Secretary's counsel needed authorization from the Secretary.

The following day, Quesada's attorney received an acceptance email along with the terms of the settlement. The mediator was also notified of the acceptance of the settlement. The mediator then informed the court, which set deadlines for exchanging settlement documents.

A series of emails were exchanged between Quesada's attorney and the Secretary's counsel. Two weeks later, Quesada's attorney filed a motion to reinstate the case on the district court's calendar.

Counsel for the Secretary filed an immediate response, indicating that both parties had reach an enforceable agreement-in-principle.

During the district court's hearing to consider the motion to reinstate, Quesada claimed no documents signed by him. His attorney was not authorized to accept or set terms on his behalf. He also attempted to include additional terms but was not included when the court dismissed his case without prejudice.

Quesada appealed and maintained that he was not party to an enforceable settlement with the Secretary. He also claimed that the district court abused its discretion, and his Fifth Amendment due process right to effective assistance of counsel was violated.

With no new merits, the Fifth Circuit stated Quesada was rendered effective counsel and concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision.

See: Quesada v. Napolitano, Fifth Circuit, No. 12-50374, USDC for West Dist, Texas.

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Related legal case

Quesada v. Napolitano