Federal Bar Update: Client representative at settlement conferences

John Maley
September 29, 2010
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In the Southern District of Indiana, settlement conferences are routinely held in most civil cases before the assigned magistrate judge. These conferences are authorized pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 16 and S.D. Ind. Local Rule 16.1(c). Each magistrate judge issues a standard order (with some modest variations) setting the settlement conference, and which requires the presence of a client representative, or if an insurer is named or contractually required to defend or indemnify, the presence of a fully authorized representative of the insurer. Further, Local Rule 16.1(c) requires counsel to confer prior to all court conferences to prepare for the conference.

In Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Yamaha Motor Corp., No. 2:09-CV-191 (Aug. 25, 2010), these issues came into play when plaintiff and its representative appeared for a scheduled settlement conference, but defense counsel appeared without a client representative and without advance notice of no representative attending. Defense counsel did not attempt to notify plaintiff counsel until the morning of the conference that no defense representative would attend with him, and by that time both plaintiff counsel were en route to the settlement conference.

The matter was not settled at the conference, but the parties did settle the matter within several weeks thereafter. Plaintiff’s counsel moved for sanctions for travel costs of $200.20 and for the client representative’s time spent at the conference of $800.

Magistrate Judge Hussmann granted in part the motion and sanctioned defendant Yamaha $200.20 to compensate plaintiff’s client representative for travel costs incurred in attending a settlement conference with plaintiff’s counsel. Judge Hussmann denied the $800 for time spent at the conference, reasoning that “the case was ultimately resolved shortly after the settlement conference” such that the representative’s “time was not wasted.”

Judge Hussmann concluded his for-publication order, writing: “The practice of attending settlement conferences without an appropriate client is explicitly discouraged from this point forward. If a particularly difficult logistical problem arises with the client’s attendance, counsel must, pursuant to Local Rule 16.1, seek permission from opposing counsel. If opposing counsel does not agree, a motion seeking permission should be filed sufficiently in advance of the conference to allow opposing counsel to file an objection.”

Mark your calendars – The annual Federal Civil Practice Update seminar will be Dec. 17 from 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. Registration information will be available in October at•


John Maley ( is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg, concentrating on federal and state litigation. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise