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New Cingular Wireless Pcs, LLC v. Spotsylvania County

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division.

June 24, 2014

NEW CINGULAR WIRELESS PCS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, Senior District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion to Enforce the Parties' Settlement Agreement ("Motion") (ECF No. 27) filed by Plaintiff New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC ("Cingular"). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

The Motion arises in a civil action already dismissed with prejudice by this Court on April 8, 2013. In April 2012, Cingular filed a Complaint against Spotsylvania County, Virginia and the Board of Supervisors of Spotsylvania County (collectively, "County").[1] Cingular asserted two Counts for violation of certain provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq., namely, 47 U.S.C. §§ 332(c)(7)(B)(iii), (B)(i)(II).[2]

The allegations of the Complaint centered on County's denial of an application by Cingular to install a new wireless telecommunications facility. Cingular had existing telecommunications antennas installed on a water tank existing on County-owned property on Route 3 ("Route 3 Property"). However, that water tank was scheduled to be decommissioned and razed, requiring Cingular to remove its antennas.

In order to prevent a gap in provision of wireless service, Cingular submitted an application to County requesting a permit to install a 183-foot monopole and ancillary equipment in a residential zone of the county ("Application"). Importantly, the Application only concerned Cingular's request to build a new facility on private property at 12341 Five Mile Road, Fredericksburg, Virginia ("Five Mile Road Property"). County denied the Application, prompting Cingular to file suit. Count One of the Complaint alleged that County's denial of the Application was in violation of federal law because it was not "supported by substantial evidence in a written record." 47 U.S.C. § 332 (c)(7)(B)(iii). Count Two of the Complaint alleged that County's denial of the Application constituted a de facto prohibition of "the provision of personal wireless services" because the water tank was scheduled to be razed and the Application represented Cingular's only means of replacing existing equipment without a gap in wireless coverage. 47 U.S.C. § 332 (c)(7)(B)(i)(II).

On November 6, 2012, the Parties consented to appear before Magistrate Judge M. Hannah Lauck for the purposes of settlement. A settlement conference was held on February 2, 2013. Thereafter, the Parties executed several documents, including a Memorandum of Understanding as to Settlement Agreement, a Settlement Proposal, and a Lease Amendment. The last of these documents modified an existing lease between Cingular and County for the Route 3 Property on which the water tank was located; the existing lease was in effect and had not been breached by either party at the time of the Lease Amendment.

The bargain struck by these documents included various obligations on the part of both Parties. County agreed to make the water tank structurally sound, to maintain the water tank at its expense, and to bring the water tank into compliance with statutory construction code and safety requirements. Such action would alleviate the need to raze the water tank, and the Parties agreed that after the water tank work was completed, Cingular could hire a structural engineer to assess the water tank's capacity to bear certain upgraded telecommunications equipment. The Parties agreed that Cingular could seek permits to upgrade its equipment on the water tank in various ways, including addition of any equipment necessary to create a fully-launched long term evolution (LTE) facility. Finally, the Parties agreed that Cingular's lease of the water tank property would continue and extend for a term of seven years beginning on September 1, 2013, with an additional, subsequent seven year term on optional renewal.[3] Also beginning on September 1, 2013, Cingular's monthly rent under the Lease Amendment increased to $2, 875.

After executing the last of these documents, the Parties filed a Stipulation of Dismissal (ECF No. 25) on April 5, 2013 signed by both Cingular and County. The Stipulation of Dismissal did not reference or recite any settlement agreement between the Parties and requested dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). The Court dismissed the Complaint with prejudice by Order dated April 8, 2014 ("Dismissal Order").

Since dismissal of the Complaint, County has not completed the work listed in the Settlement Proposal and Lease Amendment, which included exterior painting, interior painting, ladder repair, balcony handrail repair, installation of a cover plate, repair of an aviation obstruction light, and installation of a padlock. Cingular has paid increased rent in compliance with the Lease Amendment since September 1, 2013. Because work has not been completed on the water tank, County has refused to consider construction drawings and a structural analysis report, which were provided by Cingular in an effort to obtain permits to install upgraded telecommunications equipment on the water tank. In February 2014, County represented to Cingular that work on the water tank cannot begin until it has received bids from engineering firms-a process that may take up to six months to complete.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, " which are presumed to lack jurisdiction unless otherwise established by the party asserting jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). "Neither [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii)] nor any provision of law provides for jurisdiction of the court over disputes arising out of an agreement that produced" a stipulation of dismissal. Id. Therefore, after an action has been dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), federal courts lack jurisdiction unless (1) an independent jurisdictional ground exists or (2) the exercise of ancillary jurisdiction is appropriate. A court may exercise ancillary jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement after dismissal in only two circumstances: "(1) to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent, ... and (2) to enable a court to function successfully, that is to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decrees." Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 379-80.

In order for a court to retain ancillary jurisdiction to enforce its own decrees, "the obligation to comply with a settlement's terms must be expressly made part of a court's order." Smyth v. Rivero, 282 F.3d 268, 283 (4th Cir. 2002). This rule is "adhered to strictly, " id. at 283 (quoting In re Phar-Mor, Inc. Sec. Litig., 172 F.3d 270, 273 (3d Cir. 1999)), and requires that in order to retain jurisdiction, the court must "give a clear indication that it is incorporating the terms of the agreement into that order or retaining jurisdiction" in order to have jurisdiction over an enforcement action, id.; see also Columbus-America Discovery Grp. v. Atl. Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 291, 299 (4th Cir. 2000) (holding that a ...


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