Settlement conferences are generally conducted by a sitting or retired judge with counsel for the parties. Settlement conferences tend to be shorter in duration than a mediation, and may not include the parties in a participatory sense other than to get their agreement to a settlement proposal. The judge listens to the facts, legal issues, and evidence that each counsel will present at trial and then discusses with them the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases. The judge also makes an evaluation as to how the case may be decided by either a bench trial or before a jury.
The objective of a settlement conference is to get the parties to resolve the matter before the trial begins. The parties rely on the evaluation of the judge to provide feedback as to the relative strength of their position. Some judges will make an extra effort to utilize mediation skills to encourage the parties toward settlement.
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