Settlements: The Limits of Same-Case Enforcement
Jeffrey A. Parness
Northern Illinois University - College of Law
October 22, 2008
Illinois Bar Journal, Vol. 96, 2008
Can civil litigants enforce settlements resolving their actions before the very trial judges who presided over those actions? And, are such same case enforcements always subject to similar guidelines in federal and state trial courts? This short paper answers these questions, responding not always and no.
The paper employs Director of Insurance v. A and A Midwest Rebuilders, Inc., 891 N.E.2d 500 (Ill.App.2d 2008) to explore the limits of same case enforcement authority and the differences in federal and state practices. The state appellate court correctly distinguished federal court precedents that focused on distinctions between dismissals with and without prejudice. It instead looked to distinctions between judgment enforcement and judgment modification.
Unfortunately, the court in A and A also sanctioned same case enforcement where the earlier dismissal was made "pursuant to the terms" of a settlement that was not made part of the record. While relying on Lynch v. Samatamason Inc., 279 F.3d 487 (7th Cir. 2002), the Illinois state court did not follow the "standard practice" suggested in Lynch. Under Lynch, upon settlement subject to possible same case enforcement, the trial judge normally should call in the court reporter and dictate the terms of an oral agreement, or should place a written agreement on the record. As well, the judge should make sure all parties consent. Further, the court in A and A failed to address the public record nature of some civil case settlements, discussed in Jessup v. Luther, 277 F.3d 926 (7th Cir. 2002), cited by the A and A court.
Not all civil case settlements are subject to same case enforcement. Final judgments should clearly reflect when settlement enforcement jurisdiction is retained. When same case enforcement is possible, trial judges should follow public access limits imposed by both First Amendment and common law decisions. Further, judges and lawyers should recognize that settlement enforcement guidelines may differ in federal and state courts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 3
Keywords: Civil procedure, litigation, settlements, enforcement, settlement enforcement, federal civil practive, Illinois civil practice
Date posted: October 24, 2008 ; Last revised: December 14, 2008
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