Arbitrators Don’t Have to Have Standards, Michigan Court Says

Robert Sachs, Esq.

A Michigan appellate court has ruled that although judges are held to moral standards, arbitrators are not. This is a big problem, and they are not even shy about it. In fact, it’s a flat-out support for corruption.

Increasingly, arbitration is used to handle civil grievances instead of the U.S. courts. These ‘civil grievances’ include just about everything, from sexual harassment claims against your employer to serious consumer shams, like unfair charges or action by your bank. Everyday, Americans unknowingly sign away their constitutional right to have their day in court when they click “I Agree” to terms and conditions of long contracts. When they run into serious problems, they are barred from seeking legal recourse and are forced to go to a tribunal set up by the company they are fighting. Sound like fair game? Definitely not.

Attorney Robert Sachs

Arbitration is a way for those in power to sweep problems under the rug, continue harmful practice, and leave you to endure the damages on your own. The Michigan appellate court’s ruling makes that goal even easier, by essentially saying the people making important decisions that affect your life don’t have to play fair. Their support for arbitration takes the problem to a new level: not only is the civil justice system being replaced by forced arbitration, where arbitrators neither have to have a law degree nor have their decision reviewed, but a judicial court has now said that that’s ok–and while they’re at it, go ahead and forget moral standards. Needless to say, that’s really hard to swallow.

Paul Bland, president of Public Justice, explains the absurdity well:

“In what world is a secretive, unreviewable system of corporate-controlled justice presumptively less in need of ethical rules than the civil justice system created by the Founding Fathers at the beginning of this nation?
A world without enough limits on corporate power.”
Check out Paul’s latest post about the effects of the Michigan appellate court’s decision. It is definitely worth a read.

I also recommend seeing the new documentary on forced arbitration, Lost in the Fine Print, narrated by Robert Reich. You can download and share the film at Alliance for Justice, afj.org.

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