The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
On May 22, 2012, the defendant New York City Department of Education (the "City") filed a motion to enforce the parties' settlement agreement (the "May 22 Motion"). The May 22 Motion argues that the parties came to a settlement agreement on March 23, 2012 following a March 22 settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Debra C. Freeman ("Magistrate Freeman"). For the following reasons, the May 22 Motion is granted.
The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff Naisha Jackson ("Jackson") brought this action on December 8, 2010 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and New York City and State Human Rights Law, alleging that the defendant Good Shepherd Services ("Good Shepherd"), a not-for-profit corporation, wrongfully terminated her employment as a Student Intern Coordinator at Bronx Community High School. By Opinion and Order of August 24, 2011, all remaining claims against Good Shepherd were dismissed with the exception of the race discrimination claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws, and all remaining claims against the City were dismissed with the exception of the race discrimination claim pursuant to Title VII.
The case was referred to Magistrate Freeman for purposes of settlement on March 1. On March 22, the parties participated in a settlement conference before Magistrate Freeman. The plaintiff was present at this conference and represented by counsel. At the conclusion of the conference, the defendants verbally offered the plaintiff $18,000 in exchange for settling the case. On March 23, plaintiff's counsel informed the defendants by telephone that plaintiff had accepted this offer.
Later that day, plaintiff's counsel sent an email to the defendants stating the following:
This will confirm that Ms. Jackson has agreed to accept the Defendant's offer of $5K from the city and $13K from Good Shepherd Services in exchange for withdrawing the current case and a general release of all claims. Mr. Monte has agreed that his firm will draft the settlement papers and circulate them. I will contact chambers to let Judge Freeman know that we have reached a settlement.
Beginning on April 2, counsel for the plaintiff and the defendants circulated emails discussing the drafting of settlement papers. On April 3, plaintiff's counsel spoke with this Court's chambers by telephone, indicating that a settlement had been reached and discussing the submission of a stipulation of settlement. As of that date, the trial in this case was due to commence on April 30. An Order of Discontinuance was entered on April 10, giving the parties thirty days from the date of entry to restore the matter to the Court's calendar. A draft settlement agreement was circulated among counsel for the parties on April 18. On April 20, plaintiff's counsel indicated, by email, that defendants' response to the last of his requested changes was "Ok," and requested a finalized version to send to his client.
On May 1, the Court received a letter from plaintiff's counsel indicating that the plaintiff had retained new counsel. On May 2, the Court received a letter from plaintiff's new counsel indicating that the case was not settled. Also on May 2, plaintiff's new counsel filed a notice of appearance. On May 3, the Court issued an Order restoring this case and setting a new schedule. The City filed its motion to enforce the parties' settlement agreement on May 22. Counsel for Good Shepherd filed a declaration in support of the May 22 Motion on May 29. The May 22 Motion became fully submitted on June 1.
The May 22 Motion is granted because it is presumed that plaintiff's counsel had authority to settle on plaintiff's behalf. The words and deeds of the parties indicate that they intended to enter into a binding settlement agreement on March 23, 2012.
1. The Authority of Plaintiff's Counsel In a case arising under federal law, federal precedent governs the scope of counsel's authority. See In re Artha Mgmt., Inc., 91 F.3d 326, 328 (2d Cir. 1996). The plaintiff's claims in this case arise under Title VII. Federal law therefore applies to the question of her counsel's authority.
Under federal law, it is presumed that an attorney-of-record who enters into a settlement agreement, purportedly on behalf of a client, has authority to do so. Id. at 329. "[A]ny party challenging an attorney's authority to settle the case under such circumstances bears the burden of proving by affirmative evidence that the attorney lacked authority." Id. This burden is "not insubstantial." Id. (citation omitted). Here, the plaintiff presents no evidence indicating that her attorney lacked authority to enter into a settlement agreement on her behalf. Plaintiff's attorney is thus presumed to have had authority to enter into the settlement agreement on March 23.
2. The Settlement Agreement Under Winston v. Mediafare Entertainment Corp., 777 F.2d 78 (2d Cir. 1985), a binding settlement may be entered orally, so long as the parties had the intent to be bound at the time of the alleged formation. Id. at 80. An expectation that the parties would "commit their agreement to writing" does not preclude a finding that the oral agreement is binding. Id. The ...