RAGHAVENDRA v. Trustees of Columbia University

Decision Date19 February 2010
Docket Number08 Civ. 8120(PAC)(HBP),No. 06 Civ. 6841(PAC)(HBP),09 Civ. 0019(PAC)(HBP).,06 Civ. 6841(PAC)(HBP)
Citation686 F. Supp.2d 332
PartiesRajagopala Sampath RAGHAVENDRA, also known as Randy S. Raghavendra, Plaintiff, v. The TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, et. al., Defendants. Rajagopala Sampath Raghavendra, Founder, Racial Equality Struggles for Columbia University Employees (Rescue) Ad Hoc Committee, also known as Randy S. Raghavendra, Plaintiff, v. National Labor Relations Board, et. al., Defendants. Rajagopala Sampath Raghavendra, also known as Randy S. Raghavendra, Plaintiff, v. The Trustees of Columbia University, et. al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Louis D. Stober, Jr., Law Office of Louis D. Stober, Jr. LLC, Sheila S. Hatami, Louis D. Stober, Jr., LLC, Garden City, NY, for Plaintiff.

Edward Andrew Brill, Susan Deegan Friedfel, Proskauer Rose LLP, Laura Dawn Barbieri, Charles B. Updike, Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman, LLP, Tara Marie La Morte, U.S. Attorney's Office, New York, NY, for Defendants.

Rajagopala Sampath Raghavendra, Hucksville, NY, pro se.


PAUL A. CROTTY, District Judge.

The facts underlying the above-referenced cases are set forth in detail in this Court's order, Raghavendra v. Trustees of Columbia Univ., 2008 WL 2696226 (S.D.N.Y. July 7, 2008), and in Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman's Report and Recommendation dated August 27, 2009, 2009 WL 5908013 (Dkt. # 57 in 08 Civ. 8120).

Briefly stated, plaintiff Rajagopala S. Raghavendra ("Raghavendra") alleges that the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York ("Columbia") violated his civil rights and retaliated against him when he complained about it. The alleged conduct commenced in 2001, leading up to his claimed wrongful termination in 2005. Litigation commenced in 2006 and has dragged on since then, resulting on occasion in other lawsuits initiated by Raghavendra against different defendants on various theories of liability.

On July 30, 2009, at the conclusion of an all day mediation session which involved Raghavendra, his attorney, and Columbia, plus their counsel, as well as a mediator, Raghavendra signed a document entitled, "Terms of Settlement between Rajagopala S. Raghavendra ("Raghavendra") and the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York ("Columbia")" (the "Settlement Agreement").1 The Settlement Agreement provides for the withdrawal of all of Raghavendra's claims, in return for the payment of a very substantial dollar settlement award, and it also addresses how employment references will be handled in the future. The Settlement Agreement states: "The terms set forth above are final and binding upon the parties." Almost immediately after signing the Settlement Agreement, Raghavendra filed a flurry of motions seeking to disavow the Settlement Agreement and objecting to any payment of legal fees.

Pursuant to a previous referral, these motions are before Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman, who issued a Report and Recommendation (the "R & R"), dated November 19, 2009 (Dkt. #40 in 09 Civ. 0019). The R & R recommended: (i) upholding the Settlement Agreement, and (ii) dismissing with prejudice all three abovereferenced cases (Id.). Raghavendra filed timely objections to the R & R (Dkt. # 131 in 06 Civ. 6841; Dkt. # 69 in 08 Civ. 8120; Dkt. # 46 in 09 Civ. 0019). On February 8, 2010, Columbia filed a response to Raghavendra's objections (Dkt. # 48 in 09 Civ. 0019; Dkt. # 140 in 06 Civ. 6841).

A district court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). When a timely objection is made to the magistrate's recommendations, the court is required to review the contested portions de novo. Pizarro v. Bartlett, 776 F.Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y.1991). The court "may adopt those portions of the R & R to which no objections have been made and which are not facially erroneous." La Torres v. Walker, 216 F.Supp.2d 157, 159 (S.D.N.Y.2000).

A. Raghavendra's Objections to the R & R

Raghavendra objects to the R & R, arguing that the Court should not uphold the Settlement Agreement because it is voidable for fraud, duress, and illegality.2 The Settlement Agreement was reached with the aid of a mediator, and Raghavendra claims that Columbia, the mediator, and the Law Offices of Louis D. Stober, Jr., LLC ("Stober"), Raghavendra's counsel in the 06 Civ. 6841 action ("06 Action"), colluded and fraudulently induced and coerced him to enter the Settlement Agreement (Dkt. # 133 in 06 Civ. 6841).

As Magistrate Judge Pitman noted, it is undisputed that: (i) Stober represented Raghavendra at the mediation session preceding the execution of the Settlement Agreement; (ii) Stober told Raghavendra that he would be under no obligation to accept any settlement during the mediation sessions; (iii) the parties were in separate rooms while negotiating the terms of the Settlement Agreement; and (iv) both Stober and Raghavendra signed the Settlement Agreement (Dkt. # 40 in 09 Civ. 0019, at 3-4).

The Court has reviewed Raghavendra's objections to the R & R and has accorded them the leniency appropriate for a pro se plaintiff. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). The Court has also considered Raghavendra's oral arguments on February 17, 2010. Raghavendra's objections to the R & R lack substance and merely repeat the arguments he submitted to Magistrate Judge Pitman, who thoroughly reviewed, considered, and rejected them. The Court's de novo review of the contested portions of the R & R confirms Magistrate Judge Pitman's findings.

Raghavendra claims that the Settlement Agreement is voidable for fraud because he was fraudulently induced to attend the mediation session and sign the Settlement Agreement, Yet, as Magistrate Judge Pitman found, Raghavendra's allegations are conclusory and do not contain the requisite specificity to establish a prima facia fraud case (Dkt. # 40 in 09 Civ. 0019, at 10-11). Raghavendra further claims that he was "browbeaten" into signing the Settlement Agreement. As Magistrate Judge Pitman found, however: (i) the "coercive" statements that Raghavendra alleges do not constitute unlawful threats; (ii) no party denied Raghavendra the opportunity to discontinue the negotiations; and (iii) the terms of the Settlement Agreement demonstrate that it was the product of an arms-length negotiation (Id. at 11-17). Finally, Raghavendra claims that the Settlement Agreement is void for illegality. As Magistrate Judge Pitman found, however, Raghavendra provides no basis for this claim and fails to identify any specific provision of the Settlement Agreement that is illegal (Id. at 18-19).3

Accordingly, the Court adopts the R & R in its entirety. The Settlement Agreement will not be set aside. It is final and binding. Since the Settlement Agreement is final, the three above-referenced cases (06 Civ. 6841; 08 Civ. 8120; 09 Civ. 0019) which were covered by the Settlement Agreement are dismissed with prejudice and without costs. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close all pending motions in these three cases as moot.

B. Raghavendra's Fee Dispute with Stober

Collateral to the underlying litigation is an ongoing fee dispute ("Fee Dispute") between Raghavendra and Stober. On August 26, 2009, Stober filed a motion requesting that the Court: (i) strike certain of Raghavendra's motion papers; (ii) retain ancillary jurisdiction over the Fee Dispute; (iii) order that the defendants in the 06 Action place any proceeds or monies owing to Raghavendra in the Court's escrow account until the Fee Dispute's resolution (Dkt. # 109 in 06 Civ. 6841). On September 24, 2009, Stober filed a motion to strike Raghavendra's derogatory remarks from the Court's docket and to enjoin Raghavendra from further filing derogatory remarks against him (Dkt. #117 in 06 Civ. 6841). On January 11, 2010, following issuance of the R & R, Stober renewed his August 26, 2009 motion and requested that the Court award Stober attorneys' fees based on his retainer agreement with Raghavendra (Dkt. # 131 in 06 Civ. 6841). On January 18, 2010, Stober filed a cross-motion for fees, renewing his January 11, 2010 request (Dkt. # 134 in 06 Civ. 6841). The Court has reviewed Stober's requests and makes the following findings:

i. Motion to Strike

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) allows the Court to strike immaterial or impertinent matter. The Court finds that Raghavendra's submissions are replete with ad hominem remarks and irrelevant materials. The Court directs the Clerk of court to strike the following documents from the Court's docket:

In the 06 Civ. 6841 action: Docket #'s: 107-08; 114-15; 121; 124; 127; 130-34
In the 08 Civ. 8120 action: Docket #'s: 61; 68-69
In the 09 Civ. 0019 action: Docket #'s: 45-46

The Court further orders Raghavendra to cease filing papers containing immaterial and inappropriate statements and ad hominem remarks about Stober.

ii. Fee Dispute Litigation

Raghavendra and Stober entered into a Retainer agreement (the "Retainer") on July 10, 2007 (Ex. A to Stober Declaration in Dkt. # 134 in 06 Civ. 6841). The Retainer was prepared by Stober and calls for a non-refundable up front fee "plus one third (33.33%) of all monies received" (Id.). The first page of the Retainer is initialed by Raghavendra, and the final page is signed by Raghavendra under a bolded caption reading: "ACCEPTED AND AGREED TO."

The Court will exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Fee Dispute. This matter has proceeded for so long, with so many different variations, that it would be fundamentally unfair to extend it further by not closing it finally, once and for all. Since the different lawsuits were initiated by Raghavendra, it would also be unconscionable to allow him a new and separate forum to vent again in a now familiar manner. Accordingly, the Court will retain supplemental jurisdiction and will decide the Fee Dispute.

iii. Settlement Funds


To continue reading

Request your trial
17 cases
  • Raghavendra v. Brill, Index No. 600002/2011
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • January 31, 2014
    ... ... BOLLINGER, individually and as president of Columbia University, TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, LOUIS D. STOBER, JR., individually and as attorney at ... ...
  • Raghavendra v. Edward A. Brill, Proskauer Rose LLP
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • November 26, 2014
  • Raghavendra v. Trs. of Columbia Univ.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • July 13, 2012
    ... RAJAGOPALA SAMPATH RAGHAVENDRA, also known as, "Randy S. Raghavendra," Plaintiff, v. THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants. RAJAGOPALA SAMPATH RAGHAVENDRA, also known as, "Randy S. Raghavendra," Plaintiff, v. NATIONAL ... ...
  • Samuel v. Aron
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • September 14, 2022
    ... ... settlement. Raghavendra v. Trs. of Columbia Univ ., ... 686 F.Supp.2d 332, 340 (S.D.N.Y ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT