Categorized | News, Opinion


This is the adventure of when Sandy the blogger agrees with Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.  It’s enough to cause the blogger to dunk himself in battery acid!

The issue is mandatory arbitration.  Some background:  The Federal Arbitration Act is a 1922 law that requires arbitration to resolve legal disputes.  Arbitration is a private court system that bypasses the jury and also appeals as well.  While it is necessary and even desirable for businesses and corporations to have a method to avoid court and use arbitration, today many consumer contracts have an arbitration requirement.  So do many employment/severence contracts.

There is no court recourse where arbitration is required; the court must determine whether the arbitration is conducted fairly.  It is a very low standard.  This article by Paul Samakow is worth reading.  A few highlights:

The existing law of our land, the Federal Arbitration Act, has been interpreted by the pro-big business Supreme Court and thus gives businesses a significant advantage in resolving disputes with us. We are forced into binding arbitration, and the Court says this is legal.  Legislation is needed to turn back the clock and restore fairness.

Most contracts we sign with big business today include mandatory arbitration clauses. These include contracts for cell phones, credit cards, mom’s or dad’s nursing home, and even on-line user agreements. Thus, when presented with these contracts, where the arbitration clauses are in fine print and often in difficult-to-understand legalese, we routinely sign, and thus, we “voluntarily” give up the right to file a lawsuit if there are problems.

The same thing happens in routine employment civil rights matters. Most big business or large corporation employee handbooks state that the employee cannot sue their employers, and that they must submit to a binding arbitration process for almost any issue.

Here is the latest Supreme Court decision and a pro-arbitration explanation.  I submit Tea Party groups needs to be careful about tort reform.  We need to stand for the Constitution.  This is violative of the spirit of the Constitution; in these forced contracts (sign or you do not get the software or the cell phone or the severance package) you waive your right to the judge being impartial, the rules of procedure and evidence and the jury of your peers deciding the case.
Now it can be a good thing for two corporations to resolve their differences outside of court.  But not in consumer contracts where there is inequitable disparity of power and in civil rights cases where the right to go to court is crucial.  The Tea Party needs to rise up and demand essential reform to the arbitration laws.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Debbie says:

    Hi Sandy. I would very much appreciate it if you would contact me as I have a case that rivals that of Erin Brockovich and PG&E etc. I’m fighting the BIG GUYS. My case is the poster child case for stirring up support for the Arbitration Fairness Act that is waiting to be passed. I would like to tell you my story. Thanks.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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