Is it ethical for government lawyers to demand, or a plaintiff’s lawyer to sign, a tort claim settlement agreement that includes terms that purport to limit the use of the settlement agreement in future litigation? “No” is the answer provided in this article addressing the issue in the context of government and private lawyers involved in tort and civil rights claims against the City of Chicago. The article is:

SETTLEMENTS YOU CAN’T SIGN: ETHICAL
IMPLICATIONS OF CHICAGO’S MACHINERY OF DENIAL
By Craig B. Futterman, Jason E. Huber, and Pier Petersen

The article is interesting and valuable in multiple ways. One is its discussion of the settlement secrecy actics formerly used by the City of Chicago, but now apparently abandoned. More value lies in its footnote 32 citation to laws around the US that in one way or another require public access to most settlement agreements arising from tort claims against the government. Also valuable is its closing reminder/discussion of the many cases in which courts have enforced similar unethical settlement agreement terms despite the seeming perversity of that result.

Hat tip to Jerry Crimmins for reporting on the existence of the article and other related background facts in a July 17 , 2009 article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.