6TH CIR: PARTIES TO EVALUATE CASE FOR SETTLEMENT
FEDERAL COURT DEVELOPMENTS
The 6th Circuit hopes to expedite the settlement of more cases by inviting attorneys for the parties to evaluate whether their case could benefit from an early mediation conference. The 6th Circuit now makes this decision itself. Asking input from the litigant’s counsel would depart from this approach.
Another change is that the parties may have the opportunity to participate in the early mediation conference. Under current practice, the initial settlement conference is generally held by telephone with the parties’ attorneys and a circuit mediator. The parties are excluded from this process. The court plans to invite counsel to suggest to the circuit mediator whether the case would be best served by conducting an in-person conference that the parties could attend. This would allow the attorneys to take a more active role in determining whether an in-person mediation conference would make sense.
Chief Circuit Mediator Robert Rack said that as attorneys become more familiar with mediation, they are better equipped to determine how to approach mediation of their case. With growing familiarity comes recognition and an “increasing view of the merits of involving clients in settlement conferences,” he added.
Inviting earlier participation by the parties and their attorneys could increase the burden on the court’s mediation program, but it could also result in fewer mediations conducted later in a case. “Increasing the effectiveness of the mediation process could lessen the burden down the road,” Mr. Rack pointed out.
Copyright American Arbitration Association Nov 2004-Jan 2005
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