On March 9 and 10, 2001, Mercer University's Walter F. George School of Law and its Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism held a Symposium on ethical issues in settlement negotiations. Funding for the Symposium came from a consent order, signed by United States District Judge Hugh Lawson, in which the DuPont Corporation settled claims of litigation misconduct in exchange for a payment of $11 million. Each of the four accredited law schools in Georgia received $2.5 million to endow a faculty chair in ethics and professionalism, and the other $1 million was set aside to endow an annual Symposium on issues of ethics and professionalism. The Symposium will rotate among Mercer University, the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Georgia State University. The Mercer Symposium was the first to be held pursuant to the court's order.
The Symposium examined a draft set of Ethical Guidelines for Settlement Negotiations being drafted by a task force of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation.' In recent years, the ABA Litigation Section has promulgated similar guidelines for litigation conduct, civil discovery, and trial procedures. The success of those projects led the ABA Litigation Section to undertake the negotiation project. The task force began studying the issues and drafting the guidelines in the Spring and Summer of 2000. The ABA Litigation Section agreed that the Mercer Symposium would provide a type of "public hearing" for the guidelines in their draft form, as they stood in March 2001.
The Symposium consisted of panel discussions of the parts of the guidelines dealing with limits on misleading conduct, conditions in settlement agreements, and fairness in settlement negotiations.3 The Symposium concluded with a panel discussion about special issues in assisted settlement. That topic originally had been part of the draft guidelines but by March 2001 had been deleted because the task force decided that the multiple issues that arise in the context of judicial settlement conferences and mediation deserve separate treatment.
Given the number of cases that are settled in these ways, however, the Symposium would not have been complete without some discussion of the ethical issues they raise. Each panel included a practicing lawyer, an academic, and a judge, to ensure that the three, sometimes different, perspectives of each of these branches of the profession were heard. With a single exception, the moderators of the panels were members of the task force. Each panel discussed the issues in the context of hypothetical situations confronting lawyers or mediators in a negotiation. This Foreword will describe the Guidelines and the hypotheticals used and will give some background and commentary on the issues they raise.
Longan, Patrick Emery
"Symposium Introduction - Ethics in Settlement Negotiations: Foreward,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 52
, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol52/iss3/2