An article recently published in the New York State Bar Association Journal (NYSBAJ), May 2013, is titled, “Can an Arbitrator Conduct Independent Legal Research? If Not, Why Not?” The author says “no” and explains why he believes he is correct.
The NYSBAJ may not have been vetted, because the grounds for the article’s conclusions are not supported by the authorities quoted. Indeed, in most cases, arbitrators (at least those who are attorneys) are not only permitted to conduct independent research of the law, but are actually under at least a moral obligation to do so, even if the parties argue their positions on what the law is.
As a preliminary caveat, it is clear in both judicial and non-judicial fora that the decision maker is not permitted to independently research facts. As discussed below, that prohibition generally extends to specialized knowledge that might have been provided by an expert witness