Commercial Division Blog

Posted: January 31, 2022 / Written by: Jeffrey M. Eilender, Samuel L. Butt, Christopher R. Dyess, Joshua Wurtzel, Hillary S. Zilz / Categories Commercial Division Justices, Commercial, Settlements, Arbitation Mediation and Other ADR

New Commercial Division Rule Mandates Settlement Conference After Filing of Note of Issue

On January 7, 2022, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence J. Marks amended Commercial Division Rule 30 to mandate that "parties in every case pending in the Commercial Division must participate in a court-ordered mandatory settlement conference (MSC) following the filing of a Note of Issue."

The amended rule, which becomes effective on February 1, 2022, allows the parties to choose between (A) a "settlement conference before the assigned justice or another judge pursuant to Commercial Division Rule 3(b)"; (B) an order of reference to the "Judicial Hearing Officer/Special Referee office for assignment of a Judicial Hearing Officer or Special Referee to conduct the MSC"; (C) an order of reference to the "ADR coordinator or other designated court official in the judicial district where the case is pending for assignment, at no charge to the parties, of a neutral selected from the roster of neutrals or mediators under Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge"; or (D) engaging a "private neutral."

Under the amended rule, parties in every Commercial Division case must participate in the MSC, unless the judge assigned to the case, "for good cause shown, exempts the case from MSC under this Rule."

Under the current version of Rule 30, at any time after the discovery cutoff date, the court "may" schedule a settlement conference. This amendment thus replaces that "may"--at least after a note of issue has been filed and absent good cause--with a "must," to the extent of requiring parties to engage in some type of settlement conference. 

Amended Rule 30 forces parties to have settlement discussions at a time when most cases are ripe for settlement--after the note of issue has been filed--without either party having to ask for it, which parties are sometimes reluctant to do because they believe it will be perceived as weakness. Contact the Commercial Division Blog Committee at commercialdivisionblog@schlamstone.com if you or a client have questions concerning settlement conferences in the Commercial Division or this amended rule.