Dynamic Solutions in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Services

Is an arbitrator a private judge?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2023 | Arbitration

Arbitration has been an alternative to litigation for decades. Some businesses even mandate arbitration for conflict resolution by including special clauses in their contracts. They include terms in customer or employee contracts that force parties to attempt arbitration before a disagreement can go to court.

People sometimes oversimplify the arbitration process and may refer to it as a private judicial proceeding. Some people refer to arbitrators as private judges. These neutral third parties play a crucial role in an attempt to settle a major dispute outside of the legal system. In some cases, the courts themselves may recommend that those embroiled in a dispute attend non-binding arbitration before a hearing in open court.

Arbitrators do not have the authority of a judge

An arbitrator can make important suggestions about resolving a conflict, but they do not have the same authority to decide matters as judges do when litigation is playing out. The requirements for arbitrators typically include formal legal training if not licensing as an attorney. Many arbitrators are lawyers, and some of them are retired judges. However, they do not have the same authority as a judge during arbitration.

An arbitrator needs to understand the law and must also be able to remain neutral when evaluating a situation. To a certain degree, the arbitration process is similar to litigation. Both sides have an opportunity to present evidence and testimony from witnesses or experts. They may develop their claims based on their understanding of Florida state law.

The arbitrator must hear both sides of the situation and then determine what is appropriate or fair. Arbitrators can help resolve disputes about employment contracts and disagreements between clients and construction firms. Still, they do not have the same authority that a judge does.

An arbitrator cannot compel one party into certain actions. Even in binding arbitration, the decision reached or the agreement signed would still likely require court involvement for legal enforcement. An arbitrator can help uncover details about a case and suggest an appropriate resolution. Their decision may reflect what would likely be the outcome of litigation where a judge hears the same case.

It is crucial that people understand that an arbitrator is not the same thing as a judge. Parties embroiled in a dispute who successfully complete arbitration may resolve their disagreement without ever needing to go to court. Considering alternative dispute resolution options may help people settle a disagreement without involving a judge.