Arbitration Articles Abound!

Myriam E. Gilles

of Cardozo and Gary B. Friedman of the Friedman Law Group have written After Class: Aggregate Litigation in the Wake of AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 79 University of Chicago Law Review (2012). Here's the abstract:

Class actions are on the ropes. Courts in recent years have ramped up the standards governing the certification of damages classes and created new standing requirements for consumer class actions. Most recently, in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court articulated a new and highly restrictive interpretation of the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a). But all of this pales in comparison to the Court’s April 2011 decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, broadly validating arbitration provisions containing class action waivers. The precise reach of AT&T warrants close scrutiny. Our analysis suggests that following AT&T, some plaintiffs will be able to successfully challenge class waivers under certain circumstances. Also, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - if it is not still-born at the hands of hostile congressional midwives - is likely to eliminate some class action waivers in the financial services field. But most class cases will not survive the impending tsunami of class action waivers. And as this great mass of consumer protection, antitrust, employment and other cases is swept out to sea, the question arises: what or who can fill the resulting enforcement gap?

And here, we believe the “private attorney general” role assumed by class action lawyers over the past several decades will inevitably give way to a world in which state attorneys general make unprecedented use of their parents repatriate authority. Insulated from the threats posed by class action waivers and restrictive class action standing doctrine, AGs are now uniquely positioned to represent the interests of their citizens in the very consumer, antitrust, wage-and-hour and other cases that have long provided the staple of private class action practice. And to tackle complex cases, underfunded AG offices will make use of the private class action lawyers who have acquired expertise in originating, investigating and prosecuting class cases. Of course, there are political risks here - given the model’s dependency on contingent fee arrangements - but there are also substantial political benefits, as AGs around the country begin to take leadership positions in the sort of complex, big-ticket cases that are likely to contribute meaningfully to state coffers - and redress the injuries of consumers and employees who would otherwise have no recourse in a post-AT&T world.

Amy Schmitz

of Colorado contributes Arbitration Ambush in a Policy Polemic, 3 Penn State Yearbook on Arbitration and Mediation 52, (2011). Here's her abstract:

Arbitration has been demonized in the media and consumer protection debates, often without empirical support or consideration of its attributes. This has led to renewed efforts to pass the Arbitration Fairness Action, which would bar enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer, employment, and civil rights contexts. It also inspired Dodd-Frank’s preclusion of arbitration clauses in mortgage contracts, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s charge to prohibit or limit enforcement of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in consumer financial products and services contracts. Some of this negativity toward arbitration is warranted, especially in the wake of the United Supreme Court’s recent holdings highlighting a pro-business stance enforcement of arbitration agreements. Nonetheless, this does not necessarily justify abolishment of consumer arbitration. Accordingly, this Article suggest a more reasoned approach, and offers suggestions for carefully considered reforms that protect consumers without overly impeding beneficial use of arbitration. Litigation is not always the answer. Instead, it is time to rescue and revive arbitration from ambush.

Stephen E. Friedman

of Widener adds A Pro-Congress Approach to Arbitration and Unconscionability, 105 Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy 53 (2011). Here's that abstract::

This Essay endeavors to resolve a current controversy involving the application of the unconscionability doctrine to arbitration agreements. The pro-arbitration policies of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and the anti-arbitration instincts of the unconscionability doctrine are difficult to reconcile. Instead of clarity in this area of law, we have a series of hints and clues, often contradictory, from the Supreme Court. Although Professor David Horton and I share a desire to clarify this area of the law, we have nearly opposite views about how this should be accomplished. This Essay sets forth my position and also responds to Unconscionability Wars, Professor Horton's latest thoughtful effort on the subject.

Finally, we have Texas's A

lan Scott Rau

who has authored Arbitral Power and the Limits of Contract: The New Trilogy, American Review of International Arbitration, Forthcoming. The abstract reads as follows:

The American law of arbitration has for some reason been replete with what we have become accustomed to call “trilogies” – and the last two terms of the U.S. Supreme Court have curiously continued that pattern. Once again the Court has handed us three leading cases on closely-related themes – and these decisions have turned out in fact to be in many ways the most interesting of the lot. (I am referring of course to Stolt-Nielsen, Rent-A-Center, and Concepcion.)

All three amount to extended riffs on the Question of Questions – the scope of arbitral power: And so the Court has continued to dip its finger into this rich mixture – compounded of notions of judicial review, “arbitrability,” “separability,” compétence/compétence, and the preemption of state law – all of our hard-earned lore and learning is there. Apparently it is now well beyond the power of arbitrators to hold that “classwide proceedings are permitted,” at least without some pretty special authorization (Stolt-Nielsen) – while it is well beyond the power of courts to hold that they must be – certainly not when the parties have agreed to an arbitral determination (Rent-A-Center), and even when they haven’t (Concepcion).

It seems reasonably clear that these cases will continue to generate endless discussion. Undoubtedly for the moment the greatest salience will be with respect to arbitration clauses in contracts of adhesion entered into by consumers and employees – although this recent jurisprudence has the potential of sweeping far more broadly. Things now seem curiously muddled: If our law of arbitration no longer seems to have any clear unifying theme, this suggests that private adjudication – rather than presenting us as it once did us with a coherent and self-contained body of doctrine – has become a hostage to a game played out on a larger stage, a pawn of wider, systemic “political” concerns. Throughout the “trilogy” we have seen much familiar learning yoked to the service of a market-driven political agenda, in the process inevitably becoming warped and almost unrecognizable. And so – yet another untoward result – these cases will require the reevaluation of what seemed, for a while, to constitute comfortably settled certainties. Here is at least one step in that direction.