Chicago Shareholder, Misty Martin, and Associate, Danielle Luisi, prevailed as limited appointment pro bono counsel for the Settlement Assistance Program on a ‘Motion for Sanctions for Failure to Participate in Good Faith Settlement Conference.’ United States District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued the Order granting sanctions against Defendants.
The plaintiff in this excessive force case was pro se and attorneys at Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd. volunteered as pro bono counsel to aid in the settlement of the action. Ms. Luisi was counsel on behalf of the firm. Once pro bono counsel was decided, the matter was assigned to Magistrate Judge Mason to explore the possibility of settlement. During settlement conference status hearings with Magistrate Judge Mason, the defendants never gave any indication that they would not be actively participating in settlement talks. The defendants never objected to the impending settlement conference and did not object to entering into settlement negotiations. Just prior to the conference, the defendant refused to counter-offer and, on the day of the scheduled conference, the defendant refused to mediate and did not engage in the negotiations at all.
In response, Ms. Luisi brought a ‘Motion for Sanctions for Failure to Participate in Good Faith Settlement Conference’ pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(f) which states the Court can issue any just order if a party “ . . .(b )is substantially unprepared to participate- or does not participate in good faith-in the conference; or (c ) (f)ails to obey a scheduling or other pretrial order.” The motion was warranted because the court and the law firm of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney devoted substantial time and resources to preparing for and coordinating the settlement conference (e.g. counsel’s time from a firm that was volunteering its time to assist with the program, the judge’s time, video conference equipment, etc.) The Court was persuaded by the Motion and found the defendants’ refusal to good faith participate in the settlement conference ‘troubling.’ Sanctions were ordered against defendants in the amount of $500.00, which was made payable to the Settlement Assistance Program.