Arizona’s rules of civil procedure require the parties to a lawsuit to confer in good faith and participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to attempt to resolve the dispute prior to trial. Even if the parties do not believe that ADR would assist them in settling the dispute, they must explain to the judge why they think ADR would be futile in their case. The settlement conference is one form of ADR available to the parties in a business dispute.
The court will schedule a deadline prior to trial for the parties to hold a settlement conference. During a settlement conference, the parties, their attorneys, and a judicial officer or judge pro tempore all meet about the pending court action. The purpose of the conference is to allow the judicial officer to act as a neutral facilitator in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, as well as help the parties move toward a resolution of their dispute. Every mediator or facilitator conducts settlement conferences differently, but the parties may meet jointly with the facilitator, or each may meet individually with the facilitator. A settlement conference can last for several hours, particularly if the dispute at issue is complex or involves multiple issues.
A settlement conference is a confidential proceeding. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the facilitator simply reports to the court that the parties did not reach a settlement in the case. There also is no requirement that the parties reach an agreement; in that sense, a settlement conference is not binding in any way.
While we will seek settlement of business disputes where appropriate, we always will prepare your case for litigation from day one. Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., are legal advocates for businesses of all sizes, and we are ready to represent your interests in court. We handle a wide variety of business-related disputes. Call our office at (602) 256-9400 to set up an appointment to speak with us today.