What should I expect at a settlement conference with the judge?

If a settlement conference in set in front of a judge or magistrate, the parties are all required to be present.   The judge generally acts as a mediator.  He typically asks each side to make an opening remark. After opening remarks, the judge typically meets with each side privately to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions. The judge will continue to meet with each side to discuss ways of resolving their differences and narrow the gap in the respective positions.  The conference typically take several hours to complete.  If the judge is successful in resolving the case, the parties typically prepare a written settlement agreement that will be reviewed and signed in the weeks following the settlement conference.
To prepare for a settlement conference, each side should know the facts of the case thoroughly by reviewing all of the pertinent documents, evidence, deposition testimony, witness testimony, damages, and expenses.  Each side should also be thoroughly familiar with the relative strengths and weaknesses of his case to conduct a realistic assessment of his position.  Each side should also be prepared to show the judge relevant case law, testimony, and documents that support its position. Settlement conferences are convened for the benefit of the parties to the case.  It is a voluntary process during which no one is required to settle or accept a settlement offer that it does not wish to.  Each side is able to terminate the process at will or reject any settlement proposals.

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