Judicially Hosted Settlement Conferences (JHSC) are very similar to mediation, but instead of a mediator, a senior judge assists the parties in negotiating a settlement of all or part of the dispute.
Settlement judges often use mediation techniques to improve communication among the parties, explore barriers to settlement, and help develop resolution options. Settlement judges might express views about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties' legal positions. Often, settlement judges meet with one side at a time, and some settlement judges rely primarily on meetings with the attorneys.
The settlement judge does not impose settlement on the parties. The parties may agree to a binding settlement. If no settlement is reached, the case remains on the trial track. The parties' rights to obtain information and to have court hearings on certain matters are all preserved.
Court orders sometimes require the parties to attend a Judicially Hosted Settlement Conference or at least be available by telephone. Attorneys attending the conference without their clients are not only required to be thoroughly familiar with the case, but must have the authority to negotiate a settlement.
Confidentiality is maintained at the conference in order to foster frank, open discussions. In order to maintain confidentiality, the settlement judge is not the judge who will actually try the case.
A civil case may be particularly appropriate for a Judicially Hosted Settlement Conference when:
A client or attorney prefers to appear before a judge rather than a mediator
Issues of procedural law are especially important
Only cases in which all parties are represented by legal counsel are eligible to participate. Once scheduled, no continuations or resets will be granted. Parties may request a Judicially Hosted Settlement Conference through the trial court or through the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Either may be done at any stage of the case.
What is the cost for a JHSC?
The cost of a Judicially Hosted Settlement Conference is $300 per party. This non-refundable payment must be received by the ADR Office immediately upon scheduling.