The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), enacted by Congress in 1925, ensures that arbitration agreements in maritime transactions and transactions involving commerce are enforceable. The FAA, however, differs from most federal statutes—while it establishes a body of federal substantive law, it does not provide a basis for federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Thus, to bring a FAA claim in federal court, a party must establish a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction that is independent of the FAA.
In Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, to determine whether federal-question jurisdiction exists over a petition to compel arbitration under Section 4 of the FAA, a federal court may “look through” the petition and examine the parties’ underlying dispute subject to arbitration. The Court interpreted the text of Section 4—that a party may petition any federal district court which, “save for” the arbitration agreement, would have jurisdiction—as directing federal courts to assume the absence of the arbitration agreement and assess whether it would have federal-question jurisdiction over the underlying dispute.
While Vaden provided much-needed guidance with respect to Section 4 petitions, the Supreme Court has not yet clarified whether the look-through approach also applies to the post-award provisions of the FAA, specifically Section 10. Unlike Section 4, Section 10, which governs the grounds for vacating an arbitration award, lacks the “save for” clause that drove the Supreme Court’s decision in Vaden.