Statutory Requirements of California Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6

Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6 provides, in relevant part: "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." "'Section 664.6 was enacted to provide a summary procedure for specifically enforcing a settlement contract without the need for a new lawsuit.' The statute recognizes that a settlement may be summarily enforced in either of two situations: where the settlement was made orally before the trial court or where it was made in writing outside the presence of the court." (Elyaoudayan v. Hoffman (2003) 104 Cal.App.4th 1421, 1428 (Elyaoudayan).) In Levy v. Superior Court (1995) 10 Cal.4th 578 (Levy), the California Supreme Court considered whether a trial court may enter judgment on a settlement pursuant to section 664.6 when the written stipulation to settle is signed by a litigant's attorney, but not by the litigant personally. The Court concluded 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, fn. omitted.). The Court reasoned that, unlike other steps that an attorney takes in managing a lawsuit on behalf of a client, settlement ends the lawsuit and "obviously implicates a substantial right of the litigants themselves." (Id. at p. 584.) "Accordingly, settlement is such a serious step that it requires the client's knowledge and express consent. " (Id. at p. 583.) As the Supreme Court in Levy further observed, in enacting section 664.6, the Legislature "created a summary, expedited procedure to enforce settlement agreements when certain requirements that decrease the likelihood of misunderstandings are met. . . . 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 p. 585, fn. omitted.) Because the settlement agreement in Levy was signed by the litigants' attorneys but not by one of the litigants personally, the Court held that it could not be enforced under the summary procedure of section 664.6. (Id. at p. 586.) In Johnson v. Department of Corrections (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1700 (Johnson), the Court of Appeal applied the holding in Levy to a motion to enforce an oral settlement agreement under section 664.6. The attorneys for the parties had orally stipulated to a settlement before the trial court, but the plaintiff never personally acknowledged to the court his acceptance of the terms of the agreement. The Johnson court held that "absent this personal involvement, the agreement is not enforceable under section 664.6." (Id. at p. 1708.) In so holding, the court rejected the argument that the plaintiff's involvement in the settlement negotiations was sufficient to permit enforcement under the statute based on his attorney's oral acceptance of the agreement. (Id. at p. 1709.) Instead, the court concluded that "consultation between plaintiff and his attorney during the course of negotiations does not constitute the type of direct participation contemplated by Levy. As Levy makes clear, the litigant must personally acknowledge the settlement to the court" to satisfy the strict requirements of section 664.6. (Ibid.)