Let us resolve to fix the Federal Arbitration Act by February 12, 2000, its 75th anniversary!
The misdirected pursuit of the UNCITRAL Model Law in the United States has, happily, petered out; it is an ersatz statute, divorced from the rich and distinctively American, federal experience with arbitration.1 What is needed is a work of renovation, the dusting of an antique, not a revolution.
There can be no doubt that the Act needs attention. When enacted in 1925, it was thought to be a mere procedural device, modeled on the New York statute of 1920, to enforce arbitration agreements in federal commerce.2 Now, at the end of the century, the New York statute is a dead letter (replaced by N.Y.C.P.L.R. Article 75) and the federal Act presents geriatric symptoms, with internal inconsistencies, and contradictions of current case law, that require intensive care. Within the past 25 years the statue has grown like Topsy in its substantive dimension but there is not a hint of the transformation in the text. Lawyers working with a statute that dominates an important field of law have a right to expect more. It is time to bring the Act into line with precedent and to add a few innovations, procedural and substantive, to enable practitioners of the new era to get their law from its face.