Supreme Court Decision Limits Judicial Review of Arbitration Agreements

The U.S. Supreme Court's docket last term was replete with cases involving procedural questions as to how employment law disputes between parties should be resolved, several of which addressed disputes regarding arbitration agreements. In one such case, Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, the Court was asked to determine whether it is for an arbitrator or a court of law to decide if an agreement to arbitrate is unconscionable where the parties to the contract have assigned this "gateway" issue to the arbitrator for decision.

In Jackson, a slim 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the answer depends on what part of the arbitration agreement is being challenged. According to the Court's decision, if the plaintiff challenges the entire arbitration agreement as unconscionable, the arbitrator is tasked with determining its enforceability. If the plaintiff challenges the specific contractual provision delegating responsibility to an arbitrator, however, the court should determine whether the provision is enforceable.

Vincent Cino

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