United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. NATHAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Henry Soto, proceeding pro se, seeks to re-open this
case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60.
Plaintiffs action against the County of Westchester and the
Westchester County Department of Corrections (together,
"Defendants") was settled in October 2010 and
dismissed with prejudice. However, Soto now contends that he
neither consented to this settlement nor received any of its
proceeds. He accordingly seeks vacatur of the settlement
agreement. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs motion is
3, 2008, Plaintiff filed suit against the County of
Westchester and the Westchester County Department of
Corrections. See Complaint, Dkt. No. 1
("Compl."). Soto alleged that he was attacked and
beaten by other inmates while in the Defendants' custody.
Compl. ¶ 13. He argued that the Defendants negligently
failed to provide for his safety and sought an unspecified
amount of compensatory damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Id. ¶ 16. The Defendants denied Plaintiffs
factual allegations, argued that they acted in accordance
with all applicable laws and regulations, and raised various
affirmative defenses under § 1983 and the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1996. See Answer, Dkt. No.
October 2010, the parties reached a settlement agreement, and
the Honorable Kevin Thomas Duffy, to whom this action was
this action was then assigned, dismissed the action with
prejudice. See Dkt. No. 15. The settlement required
the Defendants to pay Soto $2, 500 in exchange for his
release of all claims against them. See Dkt. No. 23
("Def. Resp."), Ex. D.
proceedings separate from this action, Soto's attorney,
Stephen R. Krawitz, pleaded guilty to stealing settlement
proceeds obtained for the clients of his law firm.
See Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., DA Vance: Former
Attorney Sentenced to 4-to-12 Years in State Prison for
Stealing Nearly $2 Million from More Than 50 Personal Injury
Clients, THE NEW YORK COUNTY DISTRICT Attorney's
Office (Sept. 29, 2015),
("DA Press Release"). "Between November 2008
and March 2014, KRAWITZ stole approximately $1, 913, 155 from
more than 50 clients by depositing their settlement checks
into his Interest on Lawyer Accounts ('IOLA') and
using the money for his own personal benefit."
Id. The New York State Supreme Court sentenced him
to four to twelve years' imprisonment. Id.
thereafter, in November 2015, Plaintiff filed a letter with
the Court alleging that he never agreed to settle this action
and did not receive any proceeds from the 2010 settlement.
See Dkt. Nos. 18. Soto argued that Krawitz forged
his signature on the settlement agreement and subsequently
misappropriated, for himself, all funds paid by the
Defendants. Dkt. No. 18. Krawitz represented the Plaintiff
for the entirety of his original action. See Def.
Resp. at 6.
Plaintiff did not characterize his submissions to the Court
as being brought pursuant to Rule 60 or any other Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure. Dkt. No. 18. However, "it is
well established that the submissions of a pro se
litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise
the strongest arguments that they suggest."
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
474 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation and internal quotation omitted).
Accordingly, even though Plaintiff did not formally advance a
legal theory under Rule 60, after the case was reassigned to
the undersigned in early 2017, the Court ordered that his
filings be construed as such, and ordered the Defendants to
respond. See Dkt. No. 22.
claim that they had no reason to doubt the legitimacy of this
attorney-client relationship at the time. Def. Resp. at 6.
What is purportedly Soto's signature appears on the 2010
settlement. Ex. D. Additionally, the Defendants have
introduced into the record a payment voucher showing that
they disbursed the $2, 500 owed to Soto under the settlement
agreement to Krawitz in 2010. Ex. E. They argue that they are
presently "without any recourse to recover the
funds" from Krawitz. Def. Resp. at 6.
Plaintiffs Rule 60(b) Claim is Denied
Plaintiffs submissions raise a cognizable claim under Rule
60(b). However, because the Plaintiff fails to satisfy Rule
60(b)'s timeliness requirement, his claim is denied.
60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its
legal representative from a final judgment, order, ...