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The Fine Line Between Judges and Arbitrators in Delaware

March 1, 2012

Delaware is the only state in the United States in which companies can have a case arbitrated before a sitting judge. Recently, this has caused some strife between a citizens group in Delaware and judges within the state over the legality of arbitration conducted by these state judges. This citizens group (The Delaware Coalition for Open Government), accuses the judges of conducting “secret proceedings”, saying that these “secretive” arbitrations are not publicly recorded so there is no way of knowing how many cases are being arbitrated.

The Judges responded to this accusation stating that companies will be forced to take their “private disputes to private arbitration panels” that are outside the state courts and that, as Lawrence Hamermesh, representative of the Chancery judges, says,

The hope is that people who have decided to arbitrate will say that Delaware’s chancellors are pretty sophisticated and we should use their system.”

Paul Kirgis, a professor of alternative dispute resolution at St. John’s University School of Law, describes how the Delaware Coalition for Open Government sees the judges’ actions as a means of separating the quality of justice that citizens receive by giving certain cases preferential treatment. Kirgis stated,

“The process steps ‘toward a two-tier court system, in which the wealthy get secret justice on a fast track, while others [get] messy public processes.’”

While no official court date has been set for this case, it will be interesting to see how this issue is resolved for Delaware’s judicial system and is definitely a case to keep tabs on.

If you have any experience working with judges or arbitrators in Delaware, Courtroom Insight encourages you to review their work in our Judges Directory or our Mediator/Arbitrator Directory For information regarding our review system, please visit our website here. To read the complete articles please click here: A Judge or an Arbitrator Too?

Palazzolo, Joe. A Judge and an Arbitrator Too? Wall Street Journal Blog. February 23, 2012.

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