A case management conference is a meeting between a judge and the parties to a suit, including their lawyers, to discuss the case and see if it should proceed to trial. It is usually required in civil cases with the goal of addressing easy cases out of court instead of tying up the legal system. At the conference, the people at the meeting will go over the case and determine if it is possible to resolve it or send it out for alternative dispute resolution. If the outcome of the conference is a decision to move forward with the trial, some questions will be asked so the court schedule can be prepared.
At a case management conference, the information discussed is off the record and the judge assigned to the conference is not the same as the judge who will hear the case. People are encouraged to speak freely and disclosures made in the case management conference cannot be used in the court. The judge will go over the case, get an idea of the situation and the outcome desired by both parties, and determine if a settlement of all or part of the dispute can be achieved.
In some cases, the parties may agree to alternative dispute mediation. The judge will direct them to a mediator and they can have a meeting to resolve the case to everyone's satisfaction. This may include an admission of wrongdoing and an agreement to pay partial damages on the part of the respondent, or a decision to reduce the charges on the part of the plaintiff with the goal of settling and resolving the matter quickly. The outcome of the resolution will be filed in court and the matter will be closed.
When it is evident at a case management conference that the case will go to trial, the judge will ask for information about witnesses and evidence to be used in the trial. This is used to determine how many days the case will be in court so it can be scheduled appropriately. The judge may also remind people about the materials they need to bring into court so people can prepare for trial, and will go over the time frame for discovery, filing motions, and other matters related to the case.
While a case management case is less formal than a trial in court, people are usually expected to follow the court's dress code and to behave respectfully during the meeting. Tensions may run high in some civil cases, but decorum is required when interacting with the judge. Having attorneys as representatives can help with this, preventing people from having to speak directly to each other in the case management conference.