Under the New York program, cases are assigned from their earliest stages to a judge with training in medical issues who holds frequent settlement conferences, often after months, rather than years. A nurse with legal training helps the judge. Lawyers are required to have the authority to settle. Justice McKeon, who started the approach when handling cases against public hospitals in the Bronx, said settlement became more difficult the longer a case lingered. State court officials say statistics indicate he settles about 20 percent more cases than other judges.
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