WILLIAM W. PARK is Professor of Law, Boston University. President, London Court of International Arbitration. General Editor, Arbitration International.
Arbitrator Integrity: The Transient and the Permanent - WAMR 2013 Vol. 7, No. 1
Originally from World Arbitration And Mediation Review (WAMR)
Let me first commend the people who were speaking earlier in the morning. Sitting in the audience, I kept thinking that it would be nice to find some way to be provocative and exciting, by disagreeing with the prior speakers. They all made eminent good sense, however. This made me feel a bit like the man who became the ninth husband of Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. When asked how it felt like to be husband number nine, he replied, “well, I know what is expected of me, but am not sure how long I can keep her interested.”
If an evil gremlin wanted to bring arbitration into disrepute it could take two different paths. One path would establish standards for impartiality and independence so low that proceedings could be conducted by biased arbitrators. The other path to a shipwreck would make the arbitrator’s position precarious by creating unrealistic standards that permit recalcitrant parties to derail arbitrations or have awards set aside by a simple allegation of bias, no matter how trivial the circumstances giving rise to the alleged prejudgment or conflict of interest.
To reduce the risk of either pernicious or precarious arbitrators, those who establish standards for arbitral comportment walk a tightrope between two competing goals: one seeks to promote arbitral integrity, while the other aims to discourage sabotage of proceedings.
This tightrope walk is not an easy one. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of a first-rate intellect lies in the ability to keep two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still be able to function. A similar challenge faces all who hope to elaborate workable and balanced standards for arbitrator integrity.