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Symposium to examine the arbitrator’s powers


Do you have a job, own a cell phone, or pay with a credit card? Chances are your contracts are bound by mandatory arbitration agreements. As the reach of arbitration continues to expand so does the debate over what is potentially at stake.

What happens when one party resists arbitration? Which entity should decide the validity of the agreement: the court system or the arbitrator alone? Answers to these and other questions will be explored during the symposium “The Arbitrator as Judge … and Judge of Jurisdiction,” on February 16, from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Penn State University Dickinson School of Law.

Sponsored by the Yearbook on Arbitration and Mediation, a student-run law journal, the symposium will focus on two recent, controversial U.S. Supreme Court decisions – Rent-A-Center v. Jackson and Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds. “Converging issues of arbitrator sovereignty and class-action preclusion, these decisions have been hailed as monumental wins for big business; criticized as impermissible expansions of judicial review; and condemned as deprivations of individual rights,” said Joshua Leaver '12, managing editor of the journal. “Now, while lower courts and commentators anxiously await the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in the recently-argued AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, legislators are demanding reform, and the future of arbitration is plagued with uncertainty.”

Through the analysis of these cases, the symposium will explore the arbitrator’s procedural, decisional and jurisdictional powers. Ultimately, the symposium will address the question of whether arbitrators have too much or too little power and whether arbitrators should be trusted with extensive, judge-like powers.

“The symposium is part of the Yearbook’s continuing effort to encourage meaningful dialogue about arbitration and mediation among practitioners, academics, and law students. We are fortunate to have such a distinguished lineup of speakers who will discuss both academic articles on the subject and its practical application to the practice of law,” said Zachary Grey '11, editor in chief of the journal.

The program will begin at noon in the Apfelbaum Courtroom of the Lewis Katz Building on Penn State’s University Park campus and will be simulcast to the auditorium of Lewis Katz Hall in Carlisle. Registration is encouraged to attend in person, and the event will also be available live via webcast.

The Yearbook on Arbitration and Mediation is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that covers domestic and international developments in arbitration and mediation by publishing scholarly and professional articles, thorough summaries of leading cases, legislative analysis and other assessments. The Yearbook strives to provide inquisitive legal minds with practical, relevant, and immediate information.

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