Federal Courts Law Review

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FEDERAL COURTS LAW REVIEW - 2003 Fed. Cts. L. Rev. 2

FEDERAL JURISDICTION IN THE ENFORCEMENT OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS: KOKKONEN REVISITED

By Morton Denlow

Abstract

In 1994 the Supreme Court clarified the power of district courts to exercise jurisdiction over settlement agreements in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Insurance Co. Of America. The Court indicated in dicta that a federal district court retains jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement if it either incorporates the settlement agreement into the dismissal order or specifically includes a clause in the dismissal order retaining jurisdiction. District and Circuit Courts of Appeal have interpreted this language in various ways, and often require specific language to meet the test laid out in Kokkonen. This article discusses language in dismissal orders found acceptable and unacceptable for federal courts to retain jurisdiction. In addition, the article recommends various options for retaining jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement while bringing the underlying litigation to a conclusion.

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