Revised Code of Ethics for Commercial Arbitrators Explained - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 59, No. 1
Bruce Meyerson, a mediator and arbitrator in Phoenix, Ariz., is a former judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals and the immediate past chair of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution. He participated as a member of the ABA delegation on the 2004 revision of the 1977 AAA-ABA Code of Ethics.
John M. Townsend is a Washington, D.C., partner of Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, where he chairs the Arbitration and ADR Group. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the AAA’s Board of Directors. He also chairs the AAA’s Law Committee and served as a member of the AAA delegation on the 2004 revision of the 1997 ABA-AAA Code of Ethics.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Both the AAA and the ABA House Of Delegates have approved the Revised Code
About a quarter century ago, a small group of arbitrators and practitioners, representatives of the American Bar Association and American Arbitration Association, met over a long weekend, under the leadership of Judge Howard Holtzmann, to draft an important statement defining ethical duties for arbitrators in commercial disputes.1 Their effort became the 1977 AAA-ABA Code of Ethics for Arbitrators in Commercial Disputes (the 1977 Ethics Code). It has proved to be an invaluable ethical framework for arbitrators and others involved in the dispute resolution field.
Many federal and state courts have cited the 1977 Ethics Code with approval as providing the preeminent definition of standards of conduct in the field.2 The 7th Circuit was careful to note, however, that the Code does not have the force of law: “Although we have great respect for the Commercial Arbitration Rules [of the AAA] and the Code of Ethics for Arbitrators, they are not the proper starting point for an inquiry into an award’s validity.... The arbitration rules and code do not have the force of law.”3
Because the practice of arbitration has developed significantly since 1977, committees of the ABA and representatives of the AAA began to review whether changes in the laws governing arbitration, the increasing globalization of commercial transactions, and changes in the public perception and expectations of arbitration required revisions to the 1977 Ethics Code. The ABA efforts were aided by representatives of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, the College of Commercial Arbitrators, and the National Arbitration Forum.
After several years of study and negotiations, agreement was reached by a joint ABA-AAA working group on a proposed revision (the 2004 Revision).4 The Executive Committee of the AAA Board of Directors approved the 2004 Revision at its September 2003 meeting, and it is anticipated that the ABA House of Delegates will approve the revisions at the ABA Mid-Year Meeting in February 2004.5 Assuming that occurs, the 2004 Revision will become effective March 1, 2004.