"IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER": [Dagger] AFTER THE ARBITRATION AWARD IN SPORTS ARBITRATION [Dagger] [Dagger]

By Grenig, Jay E.; Scanza, Rocco M. | Dispute Resolution Journal, May 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

"IT'S NOT OVER 'TIL IT'S OVER": [Dagger] AFTER THE ARBITRATION AWARD IN SPORTS ARBITRATION [Dagger] [Dagger]


Grenig, Jay E., Scanza, Rocco M., Dispute Resolution Journal


A. INTRODUCTION

Arbitration is frequently touted as an efficient and economical dispute resolution method because the arbitration decision is "final and binding."1 While most arbitration decisions (generally referred to as "awards") are truly final and binding, parties can and do seek court intervention to confirm, modify, correct, or vacate arbitration awards. This is as true in sports arbitration as in other types of arbitration proceedings.

In 2014, the National Football League Players Association filed a grievance challenging the National Football League's ("NFL") suspension of Adrian Peterson for "at least the remainder of the 2014 season" and the NFL's fine of six weeks' pay. The grievance was arbitrated by the NFL Commissioner's designee-an NFL executive for nearly two decades. The arbitrator upheld the suspension and the fine. This was not, however, the end of the proceedings. The Association petitioned the U.S. District for the District of Minnesota to vacate the arbitration award.2 That decision has ended the proceedings-the NFL has appealed the district court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Even umpires are not immune from seeking judicial review of arbitration decisions. In 1999, fifty-seven of sixty-eight Major League umpires resigned in protest of policies the Commissioner of Baseball sought to implement.3 Although the resigning umpires later attempted to rescind their letters of resignation, the League refused to reinstate twenty-two of the umpires. The twenty-two umpires filed grievances that were submitted to arbitration for resolution. The arbitrator ordered reinstatement of nine of the twenty-two umpires.

Arbitration proceedings (and ancillary litigation) of the suspension appeal of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez ("A-Rod") seemed to dominate the sports news for several years. Major League Baseball had suspended A-Rod for 211 games. A-Rod appealed the suspension to arbitration, and the arbitrator reduced the suspension to 162 games.

These examples demonstrate that, while arbitration plays an important role in resolving sports disputes, the parties are not opposed to seeking judicial review of arbitration awards. This article examines what happens after an arbitrator renders an award.4 It will examine the post-award procedures set forth in the Federal Arbitration Act.5

B. DISCUSSION

1. Arbitration

Alternative dispute resolution describes the techniques or processes used in resolving disputes short of trial in the courts.6 It complements the judicial system by making methods available for resolution disputes that may be more economical or efficient than the courts.

Alternative dispute resolution procedures can be adjudicatory or nonadjudicatory. Arbitration is an adjudicatory procedure closely resembling traditional litigation. Arbitration is the method of dispute resolution voluntarily chosen by parties who want a dispute determined by an impartial person or persons of their own mutual selection, whose decision (referred to as an "award), based on the merits of the case, is agreed to in advance to be accepted as final and binding.7

Arbitration is less formal than a trial before a court. Unless the parties agree to the contrary, the arbitrator is not bound to follow the law, but may base the decision on business custom and practice, technical insight, or broad principles of equity and justice.8

Because the purpose of arbitration is the resolution of a controversy and avoidance of litigation, that purpose would be defeated if the losing a party in an arbitration had ready access to the court as though no arbitration award existed.9 Once confirmed by a court, an arbitrator's award is enforceable in the same manner as a court judgment.10

2. Federal Arbitration Act

a. Generally

Although willing to enforce arbitration awards before the enactment of the Federal Arbitration Act,11 United States courts generally believed that arbitration was an inappropriate method to resolve disputes because it ousted courts of jurisdiction. …

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