Guiding Civil Case Settlement Conferences and Their Aftermath: The Need to Amend Illinois Supreme Court Rule 218
Parness, Jeffrey A.
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Written civil procedure laws on pretrial conferences in civil actions in Illinois trial courts historically have spoken chiefly to trial preparation. More recently, such laws have recognized explicitly case management and settlement objectives. Trial preparation and case management conference procedures are described better in Illinois Supreme Court Rules and understood better in the legal community. Comparable guidelines and understanding of settlement conference procedures are lacking. Confusion has arisen in several areas of significant practical import, including judicially compelled and invited participation in settlement conference talks, procedural requisites for enforceable agreements arising during such talks, and same and later case enforcement jurisdiction. Amendments to Illinois Supreme Court rule 218 addressing settlement conferencing and its aftermath would promote the more convenient administration of justice in the Illinois circuit courts. In particular, lawmakers should consider possible changes that speak to compelled and invited attendance, the procedural requisites necessary for valid contracts, and same and later case enforcement of settlement contracts. Fortunately, there are good models available from other American states. Amendments to Rule 218 should not alter dramatically current Illinois court practices, but rather would clarify and unify settlement conference procedures.