United States v. USDC– Northern Mariana Is.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-12-2012
  • Case #: 11-72940
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Leavy
  • Full Text Opinion

Where the district court fails to make a factual finding showing the case’s unique circumstances, the court abuses its discretion in ordering the attendance of a government representative with full settlement authority at an initial settlement conference.

The government sought a writ of mandamus, requesting that the Court vacate four orders from the Northern Mariana District Court requiring the government to have representation by an individual with full settlement authority at an initial court-mandated settlement conference for a civil tax refund lawsuit. The lawsuit involved over $5 million in recovery of taxes, penalties and interest, and this amount requires the authority of the officer in charge of the Tax Division of the Department of Justice (“Assistant Attorney General”). Further, according to 26 U.S.C. § 6405(a), the Assistant Attorney General may only accept an offer in compromise in excess of $2 million if the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reviews and does not oppose the promised refund or settlement. Of the five factors considered in reviewing a writ of mandamus under Bauman v. United States District Court, the only factor in dispute was “whether the district court’s order is clearly erroneous as a matter of law.” Although the district court has significant authority to require mandatory participation in settlement conferences, relying on the senior district judge’s 29 years of experience that showed parties always had representation by an individual with full settlement authority at the first court-mandated settlement conference was not in keeping with the practical approach that district courts should follow in determining whether to require the government to send a representative with full authority. Where the district court fails to make a factual finding showing the case’s unique circumstances, like previous dilatory or evasive tactics by either party in settlement activities not present in this case, the court abuses its discretion in ordering the in-person attendance of a government representative with full settlement authority at an initial settlement conference. Petition for writ of mandamus GRANTED.

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