Miami, an arbitral venue whose popularity continues to skyrocket, has created its own international commercial arbitration court. In so doing, Miami has joined the world’s top-ranked arbitral seats by serving an unmet need for a top-notch arbitral venue close to the Caribbean, Central America and South America but easily accessible from Europe.

Here is an overview of Miami’s international commercial arbitration court, the court’s jurisdiction, and how its judges set themselves apart with their highly specialized training and pro-arbitration attitudes.

How did Miami’s international commercial arbitration court come to be?

In December 2013, the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, which is the highest ranking Florida trial court in Miami, came to three conclusions:

  1. “Miami . . . has become one of the leading venues in the Americas within which to conduct international commercial arbitration proceedings”;

  2. “[I]nternational commercial arbitration is a specialized area of law”; and

  3. “[D]esignating particular trained judges to hear all international commercial arbitration matters will foster greater judicial expertise and understanding of this area of the law, will lead to more uniformity in legal decisions, and help establish a consistent body of case law . . . .”

As a result, the Miami Circuit Court created within its Complex Business Litigation Section a specialized court dedicated to international commercial arbitration: the International Commercial Arbitration Subsection (“ICA”).3

What is Miami’s international commercial arbitration court?

The ICA, as its name suggests, focuses only on international commercial arbitration.4 The ICA features judges who are experienced with complex commercial matters and who have received judicial education tailored to international commercial arbitration.5 Indeed, judges without that specialized education cannot serve as ICA judges.6 As of this date, five judges had completed the international commercial arbitration training and were available for ICA matters.7

Parties may seek the ICA’s assistance with compelling arbitration under the Florida International Commercial Arbitration Act (“FICAA”), the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), or the New York Convention (as implemented by the FAA).8 The ICA is also available for the panoply of other arbitration-related issues parties would normally bring before a Miami judge: appointment and challenge of arbitrators, obtaining interim measures, issuing process for evidence gathering or witness attendance, and enforcement or set aside of awards.9

How do I get my matter before Miami’s international commercial arbitration court?

The ICA has jurisdiction over matters arising under the FICAA.10 Parties may use the FICAA only if their commercial arbitration is “international.”11 That will be the case if:

  1. [t]he parties to an arbitration agreement have, at the time of the conclusion of that agreement, their places of business in different countries; or
  2. [o]ne of the following places is situated outside the country in which the parties have their places of business:
  3. [t]he place of arbitration if determined in, or pursuant to, the arbitration agreement; or
  4. [a]ny place where a substantial part of the obligations of the commercial relationship are to be performed or the place with which the subject matter of the dispute is most closely connected; or
  5. [t]he parties have expressly agreed that the subject matter of the arbitration agreement relates to more than one country.12

For instance, the FICAA may apply to a dispute between a business in the United States and a business outside the United States or to two businesses outside the United States. But the FICAA would not apply to disputes between businesses in the United States unless the arbitral seat is outside the United States, a substantial portion of the contract will be performed outside the United States, or the parties agree that the arbitration’s subject matter relates to more than one country.

The ICA also has jurisdiction over cases arising under the FAA.13 Unlike the FICAA, the FAA applies to contracts involving interstate or foreign commerce.14 Because the FAA may apply to disputes between businesses in different states within the United States, the ICA excludes “matters arising out of a relationship which is entirely between citizens of the United States, unless that relationship involves property located abroad, envisages performance or enforcement abroad, or has some other reasonable relation with one or more foreign states . . . .”15

If a matter meets the criteria above, it can be heard by the ICA by a filing with the Clerk of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, along with a complaint, and a notice requesting ICA jurisdiction.16

What advantages does Miami’s international commercial arbitration court offer?

Parties can expect more consistent and predictable outcomes from  a cadre of judges trained in, dedicated to, and experienced with international commercial arbitration. That training, dedication, and experience also enables the ICA judges to be more efficient than judges with little or no experience with arbitration. For instance, the ICA recently ruled on a petition to compel arbitration in less than three months after the petition was filed.17 That timeline is not surprising: the ICA’s lead judge recently said in an interview, “The key is getting the matter resolved, whether it should or should not go into arbitration pretty quickly up front . . . .”18

Furthermore, the ICA has already demonstrated its competence. For example, in the recent dispute between CT Miami, LLC (“CT Miami”) and Samsung Electronics Latinoamerica Miami, Inc. (“Samsung”) CT Miami filed a motion to stay arbitration initiated by Samsung in January 2015.19 Samsung, in response, filed a motion to compel arbitration.20

The central dispute was whether CT Miami had entered into a contract (which had an arbitration clause) with Samsung.21 The ICA, without  an evidentiary hearing, concluded that the parties had entered into a contract and granted Samsung’s motion to compel arbitration.22 Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the ICA in both regards.23

The ICA’s location (Miami) offers two additional advantages. For parties from the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, the ICA is the most geographically convenient court that specializes in international commercial arbitration. And Miami’s bevy of multi-lingual lawyers offers  parties many options for top-notch counsel.