ILNews

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 www.theindianalawyer.com.•

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John Maley (jmaley@btlaw.com) 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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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