United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING STIPULATED
MOTION TO VACATE JUDGMENT
N. Parrish, United States District Court Judge.
the court is the parties' stipulated motion to vacate the
judgment entered in this case under Rule 60(b)(5) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and to dismiss the action
with prejudice. [Docket 200]. The court DENIES the motion
because exceptional equitable circumstances do not warrant
vacatur of the judgment.
judgment was entered on the jury verdict in this case, the
parties notified the court that they had settled the lawsuit.
The parties then file a stipulated motion to vacate the
judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5), which permits courts to
relieve a party from a final judgment where “the
judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged.”
The parties summarily argue that because the settlement
agreement discharged the judgment, the court should vacate
Supreme Court addressed the standard for vacating a judgment
and a resulting circuit court opinion due to a settlement
agreement in U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall
Partnership, 513 U.S. 18 (1994). The Court held that
vacatur of a judgment is equitable in nature and requires
“exceptional circumstances.” Id. at 29.
In determining whether to vacate the Bancorp
judgment and appellate opinion, the Court first considered
whether the parties had voluntarily mooted the judgment.
Although vacatur must be granted where a judgment becomes
moot through happenstance or through the unilateral action of
the party that prevailed in the lower court, parties may not
voluntarily moot a judgment through a settlement agreement.
The Court reasoned that “[w]here mootness results from
settlement . . . the losing party has voluntarily forfeited
his legal remedy by the ordinary processes of appeal or
certiorari, thereby surrendering his claim to the equitable
remedy of vacatur.” Id. at 25.
the Court looked to public interest considerations to
determine whether the equitable remedy of vacature was
warranted. It noted that judicial precedents “are
presumptively correct and valuable to the legal community as
a whole” and that private litigants should not be able
to effectively shape the law by erasing precedents to meet
their own needs. Id. at 26. The Court further
reasoned that the public interest in an orderly judicial
system weighed against vacature:
Congress has prescribed a primary route, by appeal as of
right and certiorari, through which parties may seek relief
from the legal consequences of judicial judgments. To allow a
party who steps off the statutory path to employ the
secondary remedy of vacatur as a refined form of collateral
attack on the judgment would-quite apart from any
considerations of fairness to the parties- disturb the
orderly operation of the federal judicial system.
Id. at 26-27.
both the voluntary forfeiture and public interest
considerations, the Supreme Court held that
mootness by reason of settlement does not justify vacatur of
a judgment under review. This is not to say that vacatur can
never be granted when mootness is produced in that fashion.
As we have described, the determination is an equitable one,
and exceptional circumstances may conceivably counsel in
favor of such a course. It should be clear from our
discussion, however, that those exceptional circumstances do
not include the mere fact that the settlement agreement
provides for vacatur-which neither diminishes the
voluntariness of the abandonment of review nor alters any of
the policy considerations we have discussed.
Id. at 29.
Bancorp specifically addressed the standard for
vacating a judgment where vacature would effectively erase an
appellate opinion, the Tenth Circuit has held that the
Bancorp standard also applies to a district court
when evaluating a request to vacate a judgment under Rule
60(b). In Amoco Oil Co. v. United States Environmental
Protection Agency, the Tenth Circuit applied the
Bancorp standard to review a district court's
denial of a Rule 60(b) motion to vacate a judgment after a
settlement. 231 F.3d 694, 697-98 (10th Cir. 2000); see
also Valero Terrestrial Corp. v. Paige, 211 F.3d 112,
117 (4th Cir. 2000) (“In the circumstance of vacatur
due to mootness . . . we are satisfied that the standards
under 28 U.S.C. § 2106 [applied by Bancorp] and
Rule 60(b) are essentially the same.”). Employing this
standard, Amoco Oil held that “after
voluntarily agreeing to a settlement that renders the case
moot, the losing party forfeits the legal remedy of appeal
and is no longer entitled to the equitable remedy of vacatur
in the absence of exceptional equitable circumstances.”
231 F.3d at 698; see also City of Albuquerque v.
Browner, 97 F.3d 415, 421 (10th Cir. 1996) (“The
Supreme Court recently explained that mootness by reason of
settlement does not justify vacatur of a federal civil
judgment under review absent exceptional, equitable
Bancorp and Amoco Oil, a district court may
not vacate a judgment under Rule 60(b) absent
“exceptional equitable circumstances.” These
binding precedents make clear that a postjudgment settlement
agreement is not an exceptional circumstance warranting
vacatur of a judgment. Bancorp, 513 U.S. at 29;
Amoco Oil, 231 F.3d at 698-700; but see Welch v.
Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., 649 F.Supp.2d 1220, 1227 (D.
Kan. 2009) (holding that where litigation over the
plaintiff's claim to disability benefits had dragged on
for almost a decade and where the parties had conditioned
their settlement agreement on the district court's
vacatur of the judgment, “the court reluctantly
concludes that this case does involve exceptional
circumstances and that application of equitable principles
justify granting the unopposed motion for vacatur in this
case.”). Moreover, the parties have not proffered any
other exceptional circumstances that could justify vacature
of the judgment in this ...