Arbitration agreements play a pivotal role in resolving civil disputes. In an effort to avoid the time and expense of litigation, arbitration is often favored over traditional judicial remedies.1 In 1925, Congress passed the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) to provide a mechanism for arbitration award enforcement and to end an era of judicial hostility toward arbitration.2 Under the FAA, a party may have an arbitration award converted into a court order by a federal court through a confirmation process.3 When a federal court is asked to confirm an arbitration award, the FAA provides for a deferential review of the award and outlines specific statutory grounds for vacating the award. However, in many situations, the narrow statutory grounds for vacatur fail to remedy unjust arbitration awards. These situations highlight the tension between deference to arbitration awards and promotion of justice in the enforcement of contracts. To ease this tension, courts have developed common-law grounds for vacating arbitration awards.6 While judicially created grounds for vacatur have not been used extensively, they have frequently acted as a safety valve for situations in which the interests of justice demanded vacatur of an arbitration award.
Republished with permission. This article first appeared in the the Oklahoma Law Review, Volume 63, in 2012.