Depending on the state you are in, the court may choose an arbitrator for you or the attorneys will work together to choose an arbitrator from a list of court-approved arbitrators. In some cases, the parties may state the method of selection and the number of arbitrators in an arbitration agreement or clause. A common selection method for when the parties cannot agree on an arbitrator dictates that both sides choose one arbitrator and then the two chosen arbitrators choose a third arbitrator. Often, either party may unilaterally decide to use this method in order to ensure that the arbitrator has no interest in the matter.
Normally, the parties have no need to speak directly to the arbitrators. If the opposing party has an attorney and you do not, be sure to advise opposing counsel that you wish to see the list of arbitrators. You may be able to research the arbitrator online through his or her website in order to determine if the arbitrator has experience in cases like yours and to learn more about the arbitrator's work. You cannot choose someone that you personally know to arbitrate your case. In many cases, the court must agree to the arbitrator that you and the opposing party choose.
If you do happen to know the arbitrator personally, it is up to the arbitrator to decline the job, but it may be in your best interest to ensure that a different arbitrator is selected. If a court learns that you had a conflict of interest because you and the arbitrator know each other, it could render the decision invalid and could be vacated by the court. This would cost more money and attorney’s fees. Additionally, sanctions may be imposed upon you. The court could even impose sanctions on the arbitrator should he or she knowingly enter into the contract to arbitrate between you and the opposing party.
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