International Arbitration — Summary Judgment, Issues of First Impression and Manifest Disregard

The plaintiff sought to vacate an international arbitration award entered against him, claiming, among other things, that the tribunal’s entry of summary judgment was without legal precedent and therefore in manifest disregard of the law. Rejected:

LaPine claims that the lack of legal precedent regarding summary adjudication in an international arbitration automatically means that the panel exceeded its powers. However, the lack of legal precedent is merely another manner in which to characterize an issue of first impression. When an adjudicatory body decides an issue of first impression, it does not automatically exceed its powers. Indeed, the panel could not have manifestly disregarded the law if there was no law to follow in the first instance. Thus, this argument is frivolous.

[Footnote 5:] The full panoply of rights associated with judicial proceedings are not available during arbitration. See, e.g., Burton v. Bush, 614 F.2d 389, 390 (4th Cir. 1980) ("When contracting parties stipulate that disputes will be submitted to arbitration, they relinquish the right to certain procedural niceties which are normally associated with a formal trial. One of these accoutrements [sic] is the right to pre-trial discovery." (internal citations omitted)); Paladino v. Avnet Computer Techs., 134 F.3d 1054, 1062 (11th Cir. 1998) ("Arbitral litigants often lack discovery, evidentiary rules, a jury, and any meaningful right to further review. In light of a strong federal policy favoring arbitration, these inherent weaknesses should not make an arbitration clause unenforceable.").

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