California Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6 - Interpretation

Section 664.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, states: "If parties to pending litigation stipulate, in a writing signed by the parties outside the presence of the court or orally before the court, for settlement of the case, or part thereof, the court, upon motion, may enter judgment pursuant to the terms of the settlement. . . ." In Levy v. Superior Court (1995) 10 Cal. 4th 578, 896 P.2d 171, the Supreme Court held that "the term 'parties' as used in section 664.6 . . . means the litigants themselves, and does not include their attorneys of record." ( Id. at p. 586 (Levy).) As the high court explained: "Unlike the steps an attorney may take on behalf of the client that are incidental to the management of a lawsuit, such as making or opposing motions, seeking continuances, or conducting discovery, the settlement of a lawsuit is not incidental to the management of the lawsuit; it ends the lawsuit. Accordingly, settlement is such a serious step that it requires the client's knowledge and express consent. . " Section 664.6 created a summary, expedited procedure to enforce settlement agreements when certain requirements that decrease the likelihood of misunderstandings are met. Thus the statute requires the 'parties' to stipulate in writing or orally before the court that they have settled the case. The litigants' direct participation tends to ensure that the settlement is the result of their mature reflection and deliberate assent. This protects the parties against hasty and improvident settlement agreements by impressing upon them the seriousness and finality of the decision to settle, and minimizes the possibility of conflicting interpretations of the settlement. . . . It also protects parties from impairment of their substantial rights without their knowledge and consent." (Levy, supra, 10 Cal. 4th at pp. 583-585.)