Mandatory Settlement Conference Program (Civil Cases)
The Sonoma County Superior Court has implemented a Mandatory Settlement Conference Program (“MSCP”), which relies on the voluntary assistance of the local bar. The court asks attorneys who have been in practice for at least 10 years to volunteer their time as panelists for the settlement conferences, typically 2 or 3 times a year. The conferences are conducted by a two-attorney panel, and take place at the courthouse. The two attorneys work together to try and help the parties find a resolution to their case that will avoid the expense, stress and uncertainty of trial, while freeing up the court from the increasing burden of an expanding caseload.
Twice each year, the judicial assistant in charge of the MSCP sends out a notice for attorneys to select dates to serve as panelists. The court asks that attorneys reply to the judicial assistant promptly, so that the court can schedule conferences timely.
Depending on judges’ availability, upon advance request, the court will attempt to assist panelists in their efforts to resolve cases and in most cases will make a judge and staff available to put a settlement on the record in open court.