In an Administrative Order dated December 3, 2013, the Chief Administrative Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, Honorable Bertila Soto, announced the creation of an International Commercial Arbitration (ICA) Subsection within the Complex Business Litigation Section to handle all international arbitration cases before the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, including those brought under the Florida International Commercial Arbitration Act (Chap. 648, Florida Statutes) or under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.

Need for ICA Subsection Well Recognized

In creating the ICA Subsection, Judge Soto noted that international commercial arbitration is a specialized area of law and designating trained judges to hear all international commercial arbitration matters "will foster greater judicial expertise and understanding of this area of law and will lead to more uniformity in legal decisions, and help establish a consistent body of case law." To this end, the judges assigned to this subsection shall consist of judges who have experience handling complex commercial matters and who receive specialized judicial education in the handling of international commercial arbitration (the ICA Judges). Further, only the ICA Judges shall serve as emergency alternates in ICA cases. Honorable Jennifer Bailey and Honorable John Thornton have been designated as the permanent ICA Judges.

Miami is only the second such specialized arbitration court created in the United States, the other such court was created on September 16, 2013 in New York. Worldwide, only NY, London, and Paris have such specialized courts, placing Miami among the leading centers in the world for international arbitration. The need to educate judges about international arbitration was acknowledged in 2012 by the Federal Judicial Center, which released its International Commercial Arbitration: A Guide for U.S. Judges, noting that “although U.S. federal courts across the country are seeing an ever-increasing number of cases associated with international commercial arbitration, few judges are familiar with this unique and complicated area of law.” As noted in the Administrative Order, a dedicated arbitration judge or court is likely to be more aware of the specific and complex issues that arise in the arbitration context, and can develop a consistent body of law.

Practical Considerations

As a practical matter, attorney's filing ICA cases shall designate the cases as Complex Business Litigation (CBL) cases on the Civil Cover Sheet. A separate form shall be filed with the complaint by the filing attorney indicating that the case being filed appears to arise under the Florida International Commercial Arbitration Act or under the FAA. Matters assigned to the ICA Subsection are not subject to the Complex Business Litigation Section Procedures for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit except as otherwise ordered by the judge assigned to the case, except that all filings in the ICA Subsection shall follow the directions of CBL with regard to efiling, ecourtesy, and Matters which do not arise under the Florida International Commercial Arbitration Act or under the FAA shall not be assigned to the ICA Subsection, unless the case meets the definition of related case as arising out of the same transaction or occurrence as those matters properly heard before the ICA Subsection. Cases designated as subject to ICA shall be assigned to the ICA subsection by the Administrative Judge or designee.

Judges assigned to the Circuit Court Civil Division and litigants who have cases filed in the Circuit Civil Division may submit a request to the Administrative Judge to assign/transfer a pending case that meets the criteria of the ICA Subsection. If any party disagrees with the assignment or lack of assignment of a case to the ICA Subsection, the party may submit a request for reconsideration to the Administrative Judge of the Circuit Civil Division for re-evaluation.