The U.S. Supreme Court recently addressed whether Sections 3 and 16 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) apply to non-signatories affected by an arbitration agreement. Section 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) allows parties who have agreed to arbitrate to move for a stay of trial proceedings until they have had a chance to attempt arbitration. Section 16 of the FAA allows an immediate appeal of judgments denying a stay under such circumstances.

In a 6-3 decision, with Justice Scalia writing for the majority, the Court held that a federal court of appeals has jurisdiction over an appeal from a motion to stay proceedings under Section 16(a)(1)(A) of the FAA regardless of whether the petitioner is in fact eligible for a stay. The Court also found that Section 3 of the FAA does not categorically prevent a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement from pursuing a stay in proceedings. Rather, a person may pursue and obtain a stay under Section 3 if the relevant state law would make a contract to arbitrate a particular dispute enforceable by a non-signatory. The Court remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit to determine whether state law allows the non-signatories to enforce their agreement under state contract law and thus are allowed to pursue a stay in proceedings.

The dissent (authored by Justice Souter and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Stevens) argued that Congressional policy limits the ability of parties to obtain interlocutory appeals and that an appeal from a denial of a motion to stay proceedings should not be available to those parties who have not signed the relevant arbitration agreement. Arthur Andersen v. Carlisle, No. 08-146 (Sup. Ct. May 4, 2009).