The Office of Student Learning & Partnerships (SL & P) also offers other dispute resolution options including mediation, IEP facilitation, and advisory opinions. Both advisory opinion and ALJ settlement conference processes are facilitated by an ALJ, but the procedures and results are different. In the ALJ settlement conference, the settlement ALJ works with the parties to try to reach an agreement. In the advisory opinion process, both parties put on their case within a very short, structured time frame, and the advisory opinion ALJ provides a non-binding informal verbal opinion on the issues. This process may facilitate a settlement between the parties following the advisory opinion.
An ALJ settlement conference is available in cases which both parties are represented by counsel; a hearing date is set; and the parties have not participated in mediation. The parties to an ALJ settlement conference may request a postponement of a prehearing conference or of any scheduled hearing date. The ALJ assigned to the full hearing willreschedule such hearing date and other dates, as appropriate, with the cooperation of the parties. The settlement ALJ will schedule a date consistent with the parties’ identified available dates as indicated in the request for an ALJ settlement conference, or another date acceptable to the parties. The settlement ALJ will send a notice to the parties confirming the date, time, and location of the ALJ settlement conference as well as a copy of the advisory opinion procedure. If the ALJ assigned to the full hearing agrees, the settlement conference may be scheduled for the first day of the hearing, unless an earlier date is available for all parties. The settlement conference will be held in the same location as the hearing, unless all parties, including the settlement ALJ, agree to a different location.
a. Each party will bring to the settlement conference the person(s) involved in addressing
and solving the problem(s), implementing the solution(s), and with the authority to settle the dispute.
b. At the outset of the settlement conference, the parties will sign the Agreement to
Participate in Settlement Conference, acknowledging the confidentiality of the process
and forbidding use of information gained from it in a due process hearing. The settlement ALJ also signs the Agreement that he will not provide any written notes or information learned during the settlement process to any other person.
c. The settlement conference is expected to focus on the respective legal merits of the
parties’ cases, likely outcomes, and risks and costs associated with proceeding to hearing.
d. The initial settlement conference will be limited to a four-hour session. The settlement ALJ may extend the settlement conference for an additional four hours only if the settlement ALJ determines that the parties’ efforts have been productive, the hearing is not scheduled to begin the same day, and further immediate efforts will likely finalize the terms of settlement.
e. The parties’ legal representatives are responsible for writing the settlement agreement. The matter is not considered settled until the parties have signed a settlement agreement.
f. The settlement ALJ may take notes throughout the settlement conference, keeping track of agreements as they are reached. These notes may help the parties write the
settlement agreement but are considered ALJ work product and are not discoverable.
The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) will assign a settlement ALJ who will not be the ALJ assigned to the full hearing. The SL & P will pay for the settlement ALJ’s time and for any staff time for scheduling and arranging for the settlement sconference.
The parties to a due process hearing may jointly request an ALJ settlement conference by submitting a written request to SL & P. One party may make a written request for an ALJ settlement conference by simultaneously providing a copy of the request to the other party. If the non-requesting party agrees to participate in the ALJ settlement conference, that party shall so notify the SL & P and the requesting party within 10 business days. The SL & P then contacts the OAH to arrange for the settlement ALJ.
The parties are responsible for their own costs associated with the settlement conference, unless otherwise agreed in a settlement agreement.