Campaign contributions not enough to establish arbitrator partiality

The bar is much higher for arbitrators than for judges, 3rd Circuit says

When James Freeman and his former employer Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) selected an arbitrator to settle Freeman’s age discrimination claim against the company, Maureen Lally-Green topped both parties’ lists. She remained the top selection even after informing both parties prior to arbitration that she “knew some people” at PGW’s minority owner, PPG Industries (PPG).

According to PGW, she also told both sides at the time that she had taught a labor law seminar with Joseph Mack, a senior employment attorney at PPG, although Freeman denies this. At any rate, Lally-Green heard the arbitration proceedings and ultimately rejected Freeman’s age discrimination claim. 

Separate Standards

The court specifically distinguished between the evidence needed to dismiss an arbitrator and the evidence needed to dismiss a federal judge. Freeman argued that “evident partiality” included even the appearance of bias, which would be enough to trigger the recusal of a judge. But the 3rd Circuit found that evident partiality arises only if “a reasonable person would have to conclude that [an arbitrator] was partial to one side.” 

Alanna Byrne

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