The author is a partner at Jones Day in New York City. The views expressed are solely those of the author, and should not be attributed to the author’s firm or its clients. Marie Aveni, a summer associate at Jones Day, assisted in the preparation of this article.
While general principles of enforceability apply, novel First Amendment and public policy considerations can arise when religious forms of arbitration are used.
Arbitration is the process of settling disputes between parties by a private tribunal. Courts favor arbitration because it can provide a speedy, informal, and inexpensive alternative to litigation, and may reduce a court’s docket.
The court’s role with regard to review of the merits of an arbitration decision is limited by statute. A court generally may vacate an award only when fraud, corruption, or denial of due process has tainted the legitimacy of the award.1 When review is allowed, it generally will be very deferential.
When parties agree to have their disputes settled by a religious tribunal, however, certain novel issues may arise. This article explores the enforceability of religious arbitration agreements and awards, as well as the First Amendment and public policy considerations that can arise when religious forms of arbitration are used. Before turning to these issues, it is helpful to discuss some basic principles of arbitration.