Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Process and Industrial Developments Limited v. Federal Republic of Nigeria
After P&ID petitioned for confirmation of an arbitral award against Nigeria, Nigeria moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The district court denied the motion on the ground that Nigeria impliedly waived sovereign immunity by joining The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).Following its determination that it has appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Nigeria's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on different grounds, concluding that a foreign court's order ostensibly setting aside an arbitral award has no bearing on the district court's jurisdiction and is instead an affirmative defense properly suited for consideration at the merits stage. In this case, because the requirements of the arbitration exception under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6) are satisfied, Nigeria’s sovereign immunity has been abrogated. View "Process and Industrial Developments Limited v. Federal Republic of Nigeria" on Justia Law
Leonard A. Sacks & Associates P.C. v. International Monetary Fund
Sacks is a law firm with a 20-year history of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2011, IMF hired Sacks to negotiate disputed claims of various contractors that worked on the renovation of its headquarters. The parties’ contract asserts IMF’s immunity from suit and provides that any disputes not settled by mutual agreement shall be resolved by arbitration. In a subsequent fee dispute between Sacks and IMF, Sacks filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA. The arbitration panel awarded Sacks $39,918.82 plus interest but denied Sacks’ claim of underpayment in connection with earlier work.Sacks sued the Fund, claiming that the award should be vacated pursuant to the D.C. Code as “the result of misconduct by the arbitrators.” IMF removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss it on immunity grounds pursuant to its Articles of Agreement, given effect in the U.S. by the Bretton Woods Act, 22 U.S.C. 286h. Sacks asserted the contract waived immunity by expressly providing for arbitration pursuant to the AAA Rules, which contemplate courts’ entry of judgment on arbitral awards. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The AAA Rules and D.C. law contemplate judicial involvement in the enforcement of arbitral awards, so arguably the contract also does so but an international organization's waiver of the immunity must be explicit. The parties' contract expressly retains the IMF’s immunity, reiterating it even within the arbitration clause. View "Leonard A. Sacks & Associates P.C. v. International Monetary Fund" on Justia Law
Tatneft v. Ukraine
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tatneft's petition to confirm and enforce its arbitral award against Ukraine. The court agreed with the district court's decision rejecting Ukraine's arguments that the court should have declined to enforce the award under The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), and should have dismissed the petition on the basis of forum non conveniens. In this case, the enforcement of the arbitral award should not have been denied under the New York Convention arti. (V)(1)(C) where the district court neither exceeded its discretion nor made legal error when it denied Ukraine's motion for supplemental briefing, made years after the parties had initially briefed the merits; Ukraine can pay the $173 million judgment without risking a collapse; the district court did not exceed its authority under the New York Convention; and the court rejected Ukraine's contention that the district court mistakenly enforced the award in spite of the public policy and improper composition exceptions. Furthermore, the court has squarely held that forum non conveniens is not available in proceedings to confirm a foreign arbitral award because only U.S. courts can attach foreign commercial assets found within the United States. View "Tatneft v. Ukraine" on Justia Law
Weissman v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Appellants, two individuals who have traveled on Amtrak in connection with their work and expect to continue doing so, sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent Amtrak from imposing an arbitration requirement on rail passengers and purchasers of rail tickets.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint because appellants have not plausibly alleged an actual injury-in-fact and therefore lack Article III standing. In this case, appellants have alleged neither ongoing nor imminent future injury. Rather, appellants assert only one cognizable interest, the interest in purchasing tickets to travel by rail, but Amtrak's new term of service has not meaningfully abridged that interest. View "Weissman v. National Railroad Passenger Corp." on Justia Law
Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. AT&T Inc.
The Union and AT&T entered into a contract governing certification of the Union to represent non-management employees and the relationship between the parties, requiring the parties to arbitrate disputes over “the description of an appropriate unit for bargaining” and the definition of “nonmanagement” employees. All other disputes arising under the contract “shall not be subject to arbitration.” Disputes that are subject to arbitration must “be submitted to arbitration administered by, and in accordance with, the rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).” The AAA’s Labor Arbitration Rules provide that the arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his own jurisdiction, “including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement.” After AT&T acquired Time Warner, the Union initiated discussions about “appropriate potential bargaining units in the newly acquired company.” The parties could not reach an agreement. The Union sought to compel arbitration. The district court dismissed, finding the dispute did not lie within the categories of arbitrable disputes, and that it (as opposed to the arbitrator) could make that threshold determination.The D.C. Circuit vacated. The agreement delegates threshold questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator. The question of whether the parties’ dispute falls within the contract’s arbitration clause, then, is for an arbitrator, not a court, to decide. The district court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the dispute must be submitted to arbitration. View "Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. AT&T Inc." on Justia Law
Selden v. Airbnb, Inc.
When Selden signed up for Airbnb, an online home rental platform, he was presented with a sign-in webpage that informs the user he is agreeing to certain terms by signing up. Airbnb’s Terms of Service required that all disputes be resolved by arbitration. After Selden signed up for Airbnb, he attempted to rent a listed room and suspected that the host denied his request because of his race, which the host could see from Selden’s profile picture. Selden created two fake Airbnb accounts with profile pictures of white individuals and used his fake accounts to request renting the same property for the same dates. According to Selden, the host accepted both requests. Selden posted his claims on social media where they went viral.Selden sued, citing Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000a), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3604. The district court compelled arbitration of his claims. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Airbnb. The court refused to vacate the arbitration award. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting Selden’s arguments that he did not agree to arbitrate because Airbnb’s sign-up screen failed to put him on notice of the arbitration clause in its Terms of Service, that his discrimination claims were not arbitrable, and that the arbitrator committed misconduct by failing to provide for sufficient discovery and by refusing to consider his expert report. View "Selden v. Airbnb, Inc." on Justia Law
American Federation of Government Employees Local 3690 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority
FCI Miami employees work in several departments. When the Custody Department was short-staffed, FCI either left Custody positions vacant or paid a Custody employee overtime. In 2016, FCI notified the union (AFGE) that it planned to start using Non-Custody employees to fill vacant Custody positions; it called the process “augmentation.” AFGE sought to negotiate the matter. FCI denied the request, stating that it had implemented augmentation consistent with the Master Agreement, which permits FCI to change the shift or assignment of Custody and Non-Custody employees: FCI viewed augmentation as “reassignment.”AFGE filed a formal grievance. An arbitrator concluded that FCI had breached a binding past practice of non-augmentation and violated the Master Agreement by implementing and failing to bargain over augmentation. FCI filed exceptions. The Federal Labor Relations Authority concluded that the arbitrator award failed to draw its essence from the parties’ agreement because the Master Agreement unambiguously “gives [FCI] broad discretion to assign and reassign employees”—encompassing the practice of augmentation— and set aside the award. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute allows for judicial review of an Authority decision arising from review of arbitral awards only if “the order involves an unfair labor practice, 5 U.S.C. 7123(a)(1). The Authority decision does not “involve” an unfair labor practice. View "American Federation of Government Employees Local 3690 v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law
District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Ass’n v. Liberty Maritime Corp.
At issue in this labor dispute case is who decides whether the arbitrator was validly (i.e., mutually rather than unilaterally) appointed: the challenged arbitrator himself, or instead a court. The district court concluded that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) assigns to the arbitrator himself the authority to determine the validity of his own appointment.The DC Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether the challenged arbitrator was validly appointed. The court concluded that the dispute over the arbitrator's appointment involves the kind of question that is presumptively for judicial rather than arbitral resolution. The court also concluded that the parties' CBA does not overcome this presumption through a clear and unmistakable assignment of power to the challenged arbitrator himself to decide the validity of his own appointment. View "District No. 1, Pacific Coast District, Marine Engineers' Beneficial Ass'n v. Liberty Maritime Corp." on Justia Law
LLC SPC Stileks v. Republic of Moldova
In this appeal arising from a long-running dispute between the Republic of Moldova and a Ukrainian energy provider called Energoalliance, a company called Stileks—which owns the right to Energoalliance's arbitration award—seeks to recover the arbitration award. Principally at issue is whether the district court correctly confirmed the arbitration award which, with interest, now exceeds $58 million.The DC Circuit upheld the confirmation of the award. The court rejected Moldova's claims that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, it was error to confirm the arbitral award during the pendency of certain foreign proceedings. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding prejudgment interest to appropriately compensate Stileks for the time value of money. However, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether Moldova had a settled expectation that an adverse judgment would be denominated in Moldovan lei rather than U.S. dollars. View "LLC SPC Stileks v. Republic of Moldova" on Justia Law
Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp.
After plaintiff filed suit against Parsons for employment discrimination, Parsons moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion, concluding that genuine disputes of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff agreed to arbitrate.The DC Circuit held that Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act makes plain that the district court, once it concluded that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff assented to the arbitration agreement, should have proceeded to try the issue of arbitrability. Section 4 allows the defendant to move the district court to compel the parties to arbitrate their dispute, but if arbitrability of the dispute itself is in issue, the FAA instructs the district court to proceed summarily to trial on that limited issue. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions that the district court should hold the motion in abeyance pending its prompt resolution of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate. View "Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp." on Justia Law
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