Litigation is a time-consuming and costly process that utilizes the public judicial system to resolve disputes.
One form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process is arbitration, where opposing parties utilize the professional services of an arbitrator. Decisions rendered by an impartial, third-party arbitrator are, in the majority of cases, binding. Binding arbitration means the opposing parties have mutually agreed to abide by the arbitrator's decision.
An arbitrator has a professional obligation to hear cases and render decisions based on evidence presented, persuasive testimony and application of the law or accepted business principles; however, there are many other duties for which the arbitrator is responsible.
Preparing for the Case
The parties provide the arbitrator with all the relevant materials to enable an understanding of the issues at dispute. In order to be fully prepared for the hearing, the arbitrator carefully reviews and digests the materials. In addition, the arbitrator conducts research to determine the legal bases for the case and decisions rendered in similar cases.
Participating in the Preliminary Steps
Consistent with the goal to maintain ADR effectiveness, the arbitrator may participate in the scheduling process to ensure both parties work diligently to address their issues in a timely manner. The arbitrator may intervene if scheduling concerns, such as unreasonable delays or unexplained requests for postponement, occur.
Maintaining a Civil Hearing Process
An arbitrator maintains civility and professional courtesy during the hearing, much like a judge would maintain order in the courtroom. Although the decision to participate in ADR is a mutual agreement between opposing parties, there always exists the potential for argument and debate. An arbitrator ensures the parties present their cases in a professional and responsible manner.
Discerning Fact, Evidence and Testimony
The opposing parties present facts and evidence using documentation and other tangible or verifiable sources. An arbitrator's responsibility is to ensure balanced representation of the issues, by distinguishing fact and evidence from testimony.
Determining Application of Law, Business Principles and Industry Practices
An arbitrator is deemed qualified based on a record of professional achievement in a number of business areas and industries. Many arbitrators are not lawyers by profession or education; however, all members of the American Arbitration Association and National Mediation Board must have knowledge of applicable laws and legal principles. The arbitrator is expected to utilize this knowledge throughout the ADR process.
Rendering a Decision
The final step in the ADR process is reaching a decision acceptable to both parties. The arbitrator's duty is to preserve the integrity of the ADR process in rendering a decision through professional responsibility, as well as an impartial and comprehensive understanding of the disputed issues, legalities and business practices.
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