This article describes the context and current state of the law in this area under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), urges the Court to continue its path toward actual consent to arbitration, and suggests an approach for finally reconciling the tension between Prima Paint and First Options. Part II describes the nature and historical context of the arbitrability problem. Part III focuses specifically on the doctrine of separability, which is the most critical (and most complex) of these exceptions. Part IV discusses the impact on separability of recent U.S. Supreme Court case law, especially the 1995 decision in First Options that arbitrability issues are to be decided by the courts unless the parties “clearly and unmistakably” agree to allocate that function to arbitrators. Part V returns to separability and focuses on one of those questions: the tension between First Options and Prima Paint.
Richard C. Reuben, First Options, Consent to Arbitration, and the Demise of Separability: Restoring Access to Justice for Contracts with Arbitration Provisions, 56 SMU L. Rev. 819 (2003)