July 01, 2014

Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes



The Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes was originally proposed in 1977 by a joint committee consisting of a special committee of the American Arbitration Association and a special committee of the American Bar Association.  It was revised in 2003 by an ABA Task Force and a special committee of the AAA.  The Revised Code was approved and recommended by both organizations in 2004.  It provides ethical guidance for many types of arbitration, but does not apply to labor arbitration, which is generally conducted under the Code of Professional Responsibility for Arbitrators in Labor-Management Disputes.

Various aspects of the conduct of arbitrators, including some matters covered by the Code, may also be governed by agreements of the parties to arbitration, arbitration rules to which they have agreed, applicable law, or other applicable ethics rules.  By its terms the Code does not take the place of or supercede such laws, agreements or rules, and should be read in conjunction with other ethical rules.  By its terms the Code also does not establish new or additional grounds for judicial review of arbitration awards.

Although the Code has been referred to for guidance and has been cited by many courts (and has been adopted in part by some) it does not have the force of law and cannot in itself provide a basis for judicial decision.

      “ … The arbitration rules and code do not have the force of law.  If (defendant-appellee) is to get the arbitration award set aside it must bring itself within the statute [ 9 U.S.C. Sec. 10(b)] and the federal rule …”  Merit Insurance Company vs. Leatherby Insurance Company, 714 F.2d 673, 681 (7th Cir. 1983), Posner, J.

This Annotation provides citations to judicial decisions and other published writings which cite the 1977 or 2004 Codes from 1981 through July 1, 2013. It does not cite to the numerous court cases and writings that have considered issues encompassed by the Codes without referring to it.

Arbitrator ethical guidance may be found in sources in addition to the Code, such as portions of the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, and the rules and standards of various domestic and international institutional arbitration administrative bodies. Some states, particularly California, have codified ethical principles or standards, see, for instance,: Cal.Code.Civ.Proc Section 1281.9, Ethics Standards for Neutral Arbitrators in Contractual Arbitrations, Division VI, California Rules of Court Appendix A (rev. 2003). See generally, College of Commercial Arbitrators Guide to Best Practices in Commercial Arbitration (2d Ed. 2010).

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