Coordination among courts is particularly beneficial as the parties approach settlement. One or more parties may even be unable or unwilling to settle your case unless the related cases are also resolved. When such a situation presents itself, codes of conduct generally prohibit judges from mediating cases in another jurisdiction without the agreement of the judges and parties in those cases. See, for example, Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, Commentary to Canon 4A(4).
- The parties may refuse to settle one case unless the related cases are also resolved.
Judges differ in how actively they involve themselves in settlement negotiations. A special master may be appointed to oversee negotiations, which avoids a potential recusal if settlement does not occur. If different jurisdictions appoint the same special master, the master will be in the best position to see all the moving parts of the litigation and all the factors that influence the parties’ incentives. A shared settlement special master was used in the Avandia litigation.
You may receive one or more requests to delay trial so that parties can keep working on settlement. By keeping abreast of how related cases are progressing, you will be better able to evaluate such requests. Again, coordinate with counsel to determine if trial delays will actually thwart settlement, as firm trial dates tend to encourage resolution.
State laws may also differ on whether the court must approve a settlement, depending on the type of case and whether minors are involved.
Next section: Trial
Hon. Jane R. Roth, Coordination of Litigation in State and Federal Courts, in Business Commercial Litigation in Federal Court 147 (Robert L. Haig, ed., 3d ed. 2011).
Howard M. Erichson, Informal Aggregation: Procedural and Ethical Implications of Coordination Among Counsel in Related Lawsuits, 50 Duke L.J. 381 (2000).