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CROWLEY v. MUSKIE

May 22, 1980

James D. CROWLEY et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Edmund S. MUSKIE et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.

The instant action has had a long and troubled history. In 1974 Plaintiffs brought a class action suit, claiming that Defendants placed Plaintiffs in "overcomplement" status, thus depriving them of their rights as Civil Service employees. On June 24, 1977, in a Memorandum Opinion and Order, this Court granted partial Summary Judgment to Plaintiffs. The only issues remaining after the issuance of the 1977 Opinion were (1) what individuals were placed in overcomplement status, and (2) what relief is appropriate to those individuals.

 On October 28, 1977, this Court signed a consent decree and order that provided for the effectuation of notice to all members of the class, informing them of their right to file claims for any specific career damage or loss of opportunity they believed they may have suffered by reason of their having been placed in overcomplement status. On November 1, 1978, another stipulation and consent agreement was signed by the Court establishing procedures to resolve the claims of all individuals dissatisfied with Defendants' settlement offers. The November 1 agreement provided, inter alia, that all claims would be presented to a Special Master for resolution, that Paul Weil, a retired Administrative Law Judge, shall serve as Special Master, and that all recommendations of the Special Master are appealable to this Court. Now before the Court are objections to the findings and recommendations made by Special Master Weil.

 I. The Class

 The Class, as defined by this Court's Order of January 2, 1975, is composed of all Civil Service employees whose positions have been abolished and who have been placed in overcomplement status. The Special Master found that two individuals, Willie Waiters and Leonard Pomeroy, did not meet this description. While Mr. Waiters has been placed in a dead end job that might be akin to overcomplement status, his position has not been abolished. He is not a member of the Plaintiff class. Likewise, Mr. Pomeroy was a Foreign Service Reserve Officer placed in Foreign Service overcomplement status. Foreign Service overcomplemency was not encompassed by this litigation; Pomeroy is therefore not a member of the Plaintiff class. The findings of the Special Master regarding the claims of Waiters and Pomeroy must be affirmed.

 II. Defendants' Objections

 Defendants object to portions of the Special Master's findings on four grounds, to wit: (1) that the recommended retroactive promotion, back pay, and money damage relief is barred by the doctrine of immunity, (2) that the recommended order of monetary relief to two claimants (Newmaster and Smith) would violate the Classification Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 5536 et seq., (3) that one claimant (Collins) is precluded from receiving damages because of the Statute of Limitations, and (4) that the recommendation providing for attorney's fees is contrary to law. The Court finds that Defendants' claims are without merit, and grants all of the relief recommended by Special Master Weil.

 A. The Back Pay Act

 This Court has already found that Plaintiffs were wrongfully removed from their Civil Service jobs when they were placed in overcomplement status, that the placement of Plaintiffs in overcomplemency constituted illegal reductions in force and adverse actions, and that Plaintiffs were entitled to damages. *fn1" Defendants did not appeal the Court's findings; rather, they consented to the judgment of the Court. The October 28, 1977 stipulation indicates the scope of this consent. It provides for the giving of notice to potential members of the class, and indicates what remedies were envisioned by Defendants. That stipulation states, inter alia, that Plaintiffs should

 
file a claim for any specific career damage or loss of opportunity . . . suffered by reason of having been placed (on overcomplement) status.
 
If (Plaintiffs) do not (file notice) by midnight of December 1, 1977, (they will) be unable thereafter to make any claim of economic or other disadvantages against the Department . . .

 Pursuant to the October 28 stipulation, Defendants entered into settlement negotiations with Plaintiffs. Approximately one third of the Plaintiffs settled their claims; all of those Plaintiffs received money damages, and most received upgraded positions. The November 1, 1978 stipulation was effectuated to provide relief to those Plaintiffs dissatisfied with Defendants' settlement offers. Special Master Weil was given the authority to ascertain what damages were suffered and what relief was appropriate. Defendants now attempt to resurrect defenses long since waived in the instant litigation. They are precluded from doing so because of the valid settlement agreements and the Back Pay Act.

 It is beyond dispute that the settlement agreements provided that Plaintiffs would be compensated for career damage, loss of pay, and loss of opportunity due to overcomplemency. The issues left for resolution by the Special Master were primarily factual, viz. what individuals were placed in overcomplement status, and to what extent were their careers damaged by such placement. The only legal issues left unresolved by the settlement agreements were (1) are Plaintiffs entitled to attorneys fees, and (2) were the remedies recommended by the Special Master reasonable in light of the damages suffered by the individual Plaintiffs. The assertions now posited by Defendants exceed the limited scope of objections permissible under the settlement agreements. Since the agreements are valid and enforceable, Defendants are estopped from making these contentions. See U. S. v. McInnes, 556 F.2d 436, 441 (9th Cir. 1979).

 Assuming arguendo that the settlement agreements do not preclude the asserted defenses, they must fall as a matter of law. The Back Pay Act, 5 ...


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