News & Events

Fifth Circuit Reaffirms the “Limited” and “Exceedingly Deferential” Review of Arbitration Decisions

On August 4, 2016, the Fifth Circuit declined a pro se plaintiff’s invitation to reconsider the merits of his claim and instead confirmed the arbitration award against him under the Federal Arbitration Act’s standard of limited and exceedingly deferential review.  Plaintiff Tommy Parker filed suit against his former employer, ETB Management, LLC, for age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in Parker v. ETB Management L.L.C., No. 15-11128 (5th Cir. Aug. 4, 2016).

After being compelled to arbitrate, the parties put on evidence before a single arbitrator.  The arbitrator ruled in favor of ETB on both of Mr. Parker’s claims.  Mr. Parker moved to vacate the award while ETB moved to confirm it.  The district court confirmed the award, and Mr. Parker filed five additional and largely identical motions to vacate.  The district court held firm, and Mr. Parker appealed to the Fifth Circuit – arguing that the arbitrator’s decision was procured by corruption and that the arbitrator acted with evidence of partiality or corruption in violation of the FAA.

In support of his contention, Mr. Parker argued that the credibility of the defendant’s witnesses was so poor that there was no factual basis to support the arbitrator’s decision.  On that basis, he argued that the arbitrator acted with partiality or out of corruption.  The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court and explained that judicial review of an arbitration decision is “limited” and “exceedingly deferential.”  In the analysis of its decision, the court cited Mr. Parker’s “rearguing the merits of his claim” and his failure to show that the arbitrator acted with corruption in violation of the FAA.

Haley Fowler Gregory