Kavanaugh’s first Supreme Court opinion says courts have to respect parties’ decision on arbitration

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh/Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh issued his first opinion for the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The unanimous opinion held that federal judges don’t have the authority to decide whether a dispute can be arbitrated when the contract gives the decision to the arbitrator.

Kavanaugh said some federal courts “short-circuit the process and decide the arbitrability question themselves” despite contract language giving the decision to the arbitrator. The judges claim the authority on the ground that the person seeking arbitration is making a “wholly groundless” argument that the particular dispute is subject to arbitration.

But the Federal Arbitration Act “does not contain a ‘wholly groundless’ exception, and we are not at liberty to rewrite the statute passed by Congress and signed by the president,” Kavanaugh wrote.

The Supreme Court ruled in a dispute between a dental equipment manufacturer and a distributor. The case is Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc.

Hat tip to SCOTUSblog.

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