Following the death of Kenneth Kanter, his son contested the validity of Mr. Kanter’s will and several quitclaim deeds Mr. Kanter had purportedly executed. These documents were drafted and/or prepared by the decedent’s brother, Sidney Kanter, who is a suspended New Jersey attorney. The parties mediated the case and reached a settlement of the matter. They informed the court, and the terms of the settlement were placed on the record. The court also conducted a voir dire of the parties and counsel regarding their assent to the settlement. The court then “approved the settlement as free and voluntary.” The resulting order simply stated that the matter had been settled as set forth on the record, and that the pleadings were dismissed with prejudice.

Sidney Kanter then filed a motion for reconsideration of that order. The decedent’s son and other brother, Harold, cross-moved for enforcement of the settlement.

In support of his motion for reconsideration, Sidney claimed that he was “under a tremendous amount of pressure” during the settlement proceedings because he feared for the health of his brother Harold, who had also taken part in the settlement. Sidney claimed that Harold’s “eyes reddened[ed] as Harold showed the most drastic facial expressions Sidney had ever seen.” (In response, Harold denied that he had been having a medical problem during the settlement negotiations.)

Honorable Robert P. Contillo, P.J.Ch. denied Sidney’s motion. Judge Contillo found that,

A motion for reconsideration is an improper application when a party seeks to vacate a settlement. The main thrust of a motion to reconsider is that the moving party moves to have the court reconsider an order or decision that it has made, not one the parties have made. … The parties entered into a settlement agreement that, as per the Settlement’s terms, dismissed the matter. The court then memorialized the dismissal of the matter in a May 13, 2015 Letter Order, but that order is not subject to reconsideration as the impetus of the entry of the order was the Settlement…. What Sidney really seeks is judicial nullification of the parties’ settlement agreement.

Judge Contillo went on to find that Sidney had failed to satisfy the requirements for vacating a settlement agreement:

Here, there is no evidence of any fraud or other compelling circumstances to warrant vacation of the Settlement nor is there any evidence that the terms and conditions of the Settlement were unclear or ambiguous….The claim that Sidney would have emphatically disavowed the Settlement had only the voir dire questions been phrased differently is utterly at odds with the mindset of duress…. Likewise, the claim that the Settlement is somehow unconscionable is completely without foundation… Sidney gave up much and got much. That is what settlements often do.

The judge denied Sidney’s motion and granted the cross-motions to enforce the settlement. Judge Contillo gave Sidney fourteen days to comply, and ordered that his failure to do so would result in the appointment of an attorney-in-fact to execute the documents necessary to effectuate the settlement.

A copy of In re Estate of Kanter can be found here –  In the Matter of the Estate of Kenneth Kanter

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