Since the Supreme Court’s Hall Street Associates decision last March, it has been unclear whether the manifest disregard of law doctrine survived as a basis upon which to vacate an arbitration award. Authoritative guidance on that issue from the Second and Ninth Circuits may be relatively close at hand. The United States Supreme Court has granted a petition for writ of certiorari in Improv West Associates v. Comedy Club, Inc., No. 07-1334 (Oct. 6, 2008), and has summarily vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit at 514 F.3d 833, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of Hall Street Associates. The Ninth Circuit, in a decision issued prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Hall Street Associates, had found that a decision of an arbitrator was in manifest disregard of California law. The Supreme Court wishes to have the Ninth Circuit consider whether that decision is still appropriate in light of the Hall Street Associates decision.
In the Second Circuit, the court recently affirmed the confirmation of an arbitration award, rejecting the contention that the award was in manifest disregard of law, concluding that “even if the manifest-disregard standard were to survive Hall Street Associates, it affords Sole no relief from the arbitration award challenged in this case.” Sole Resort, S.A. v. Allure Resort Management, LLC, No. 07-1284 (2d Cir. Oct. 20, 2008). The Sole opinion notes that the issue of whether the manifest disregard of law doctrine survived Hall Street Associates is pending in another case in the 2d Circuit, Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corp., No. 06-3474 (argued May 30, 2008). Therefore, there may be federal appellate court authority addressing the continued viability of the manifest disregard of law doctrine fairly soon.