You sued your doctor.
For medical malpractice.
You claim he was careless.

You claim his wrongdoing caused you harm.

Your doctor denies all your claims.
He also says you're responsible for your own injuries.
Then he says that your injuries aren't that bad after all.

Your case can't be settled.
The doctor and his insurance company refuse to pay you a dime.
That means it'll go the distance.

You're going to go to trial.
On the way there however, the judge supervising your case wants to get the attorneys together to see if there's a chance your case can be settled before trial.
He calls the attorneys into court for a settlement conference.

Your lawyer tells you when and where this settlement conference will happen.
You DEMAND to be in court when this conference happens.
Your lawyer says "Fine. Meet me in the courtroom on this date, at this time. You'll just be sitting out in the courtroom while I and my opponent go into the judge's private chambers to talk to him."

"OH NO!" you scream out. "This is MY case. I want to go into the judge with you. You're not going in by yourself. I DEMAND THAT I ACCOMPANY YOU!" you screech with authority.

Can you do that?

Can you demand to be in the courtroom when your lawyer goes on a settlement conference on your behalf?
Can you demand to see and speak to the judge as well?

Let me answer the first question first.

Yes, you can come to court.
Yes, you can come up to the courtroom.
Yes, you can wait there for your case to be called.

But no, you cannot come back to speak to the judge...

Here's what's happening...
The judge will want to know what the settlement posture is for each side.
"Counselor, do you have any money on this case," the judge asks the defense lawyer.

"Judge, this was a no-pay case, however as we're approaching trial, the carrier is evaluating to see if this is still a viable option," the attorney says.
"How much time do you need to get an answer?" the judge asks.
"Another month should do it," the defense lawyer replies.
"Fine, come back here in month," the judge declares.

That conference could take all of one or two minutes.
The only thing we learned during this discussion is that the defense position "May" have changed.
That doesn't mean anything yet.

If you had traveled into court just for that conference it's likely you'd have spent all morning getting ready, traveling to the court house, going through security and sitting around for hours waiting for your case to be called. Then in no more than two minutes, your attorney comes back out to let you know nothing has happened and he is to return back to court in one month on your case.

Is that a productive use of your time?
I think not.

Let's get back to your demand that you want to speak to the judge about your case during any settlement conference.

You feel that since this is your case and you know the details of your case better than anyone, including your lawyer, that you have the right to recite those arguments to the judge when your case is called up for settlement conference.

You are right in a way.
This is your case.
You do have a right to be in court when court is in session and your trial is open to the public.

However, the judge will likely NOT agree to speak to you.
Why not?
First, you have an attorney to speak for you.

That is why you hired him, right?
Second, these settlement discussions do not delve into great detail about the facts of your case.
Keep in mind that the judge had many cases to handle. 

You might be surprised to learn that the judge will not be familiar with your specific set of facts.
Plus, the judge does not have all day to listen to just one case during a settlement conference.
In fact, the judge really only wants to know a few key things.

(1) What's the defense's position in terms of settling this case?
(2) Are your experts available for trial in the near future?
(3) If money has been offered, how much and is there more available?

The judge does not want to hear from the litigants.
The judge does not need to hear from the litigants when asking the attorneys about their settlement position.
The judge is likely not going to go into detail about whether you do or don't have a valid basis for a case.

The judge wants to know how far the defense will go if they have money to offer.
The judge will want to know from your attorney what you and he are willing to accept to settle your case.
That's it.

If the defense says this is a no-pay case and they're not willing to negotiate, it makes the Judges' decision making process very simple. "Fine, I want you both to return for jury selection on March 6. That is all."

There is an exception.
If you feel there is some extenuating circumstance that you and only you can impart to the judge, your attorney can ask the court for permission to bring you in to talk privately with the judge. If the judge agrees to speak to you, you can then convey your concerns to the judge.

But going back to the title of this article; can you DEMAND to speak to the judge?
No. You're not entitled to speak to the judge.
You can demand all you want.

You can throw a temper tantrum if you want.
None of that will matter since the judge will not speak to litigants.
He will speak to your attorney who will then convey the details of the conversation to you.

To learn more about whether you can speak to the judge during a settlement conference, I invite you to watch the quick video below...


Gerry Oginski
Connect with me
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer