May 13, 2010

More Support for Limiting Arbitral Subpoena Power

A federal magistrate judge in Chicago last week quashed an arbitrator’s  subpoena for the pre-hearing deposition of a non-party witness, citing with approval decisions of the Second, Third, and Fourth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal  that interpret Section 7 of the Federal Arbitration Act to permit an arbitrator to subpoena witnesses only to appear before the arbitrator at a hearing and to bring with them to the hearing requested material documentary evidence. The magistrate judge also quoted with approval from a decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals: “The choice of arbitration is a choice to trade off certain procedural safeguards . . . against hoped-for savings in time and expense (other than the expense of the tribunal), a measure of procedural simplicity and informality, and a differently constituted tribunal.”  (Matter of Arbitration Between Gloria Ware v. C.D. Peacock, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIST 44737 (N.D. Ill. May 7, 2010), quoting from Smith v. American Arbitration Ass’n, 233 F.3d 502, 506 (7th Cir. 2000).

One Response to “More Support for Limiting Arbitral Subpoena Power”

  1. I agree with the proposition that litigants cannot and should not expect to get the same from arbitration as from court proceedings, and vice versa.

    Each process has its advantages and disadvantages. When choosing arbitration, litigants must be prepared for a trade-off between what they get and what they miss. Trying to make arbitration a look alike of court proceedings is not a good approach.

    The Gloria opinion rightly point to procedural simplicity and informality, coupled with the right to participate in the constitution of the arbitral tribunal, as the hallmarks of the spirit of arbitration.

    Attempts to overburden arbitration with procedural safeguards to make it supposedly as efficient as court proceedings directly bite at the spirit and efficiency of arbitration and can only result in the cost of arbitration rolling out of hand, to the point where litigants may become disheartened with arbitration.

    Edouard Bertrand

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