Jenny Brown


With the increased use of arbitration in recent years, the concept of judicial immunity has expanded its scope to include arbitrators. As a result, states are currently enacting their own legislation regarding arbitrator immunity and are looking for guidance in how to do so. In response, the National Conference of Commissioners on State Laws has drafted two model acts, referred to as the Uniform Arbitration Act and the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act for states to utilize in formulating their own arbitration laws. Currently the Uniform Arbitration Act has been adopted in thirteen states and is being considered in four other states. Additionally, the New Jersey Arbitration Act ("the Act"), the legislation at issue here, was adopted from the Uniform Arbitration Act. While portions of the Act have already come under judicial review, Malik v. Ruttenberg presented state courts with the first opportunity to interpret the Act's immunity provision. In Malik, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court upheld the extension of absolute immunity to arbitrators without considering the adoption of qualified immunity. Regrettably, that decision may have negative repercussions for the field of arbitration. By reinforcing the status quo, the court essentially gave its support and approval to policies that have eroded accountability and integrity in the arbitration process. Furthermore, because state courts may now look to Malik for guidance in interpreting cases, it will be more difficult to implement a new standard of qualified immunity for arbitrators in the future.



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