Monday, January 09, 2006

Fourth Circuit issues arbitration opinion holding that judicial intervention on number of arbitrators to use is improper

In a very pro-arbitration ruling (DOCKSER v. SCHWARTZBERG), the Fourth Circuit declined to intervene in a dispute concerning the number of arbitrators to use in a dispute. In Dockser, the Plaintiffs did not contest that they are contractually bound to arbitrate the merits of their dispute, but sought to litigate whether one arbitrator, rather than three, should preside over the arbitration.

The Fourth Circuit held that judicial intervention on this issue would be inappropriate:

The parties have agreed that arbitrator selection should follow the rules and procedures of the American Arbitration Association, and the number of arbitrators is a procedural question to be answered exclusively in that forum. The FAA promotes the efficient resolution of disputes through arbitration, and this goal would be undermined if we were to allow arbitration proceedings to be stalled or nullified by ancillary litigation on minor issues of this type. We accordingly affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing plaintiffs' complaint.

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