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GUIDELINES FOR ARBITRATION


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

 

OFFICE OF THE CLERK

** PDF FORMAT

LIST OF ARBITRATORS-ERIE ** 
LIST OF ARBITRATORS-JOHNSTOWN **
LIST OF ARBITRATORS-PITTSBURGH **

APPLICATION FORM FOR BECOMING ARBITRATOR **

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART A CASE MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ASSIGNED

DISTRICT JUDGE OR MAGISTRATE JUDGE 1


PART B ARBITRATOR'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR MANAGING THE

ARBITRATION HEARING PROCESS 3


PART C SUGGESTED FORMAT FOR THE PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE

AT ARBITRATION HEARINGS 5


PART D ATTENDANCE OF PARTIES; PARTICIPATION IN A

"MEANINGFUL MANNER" 7


PART E STENOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT 7


PART F THE ARBITRATION PROCEDURE - A SUMMARY 8


PART G PROCESSING THE ARBITRATION AWARD 10


PART H COMPENSATION OF ARBITRATORS 11


PART A

CASE MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITY OF THE

ASSIGNED DISTRICT JUDGE OR MAGISTRATE JUDGE


The referral of civil actions to the Arbitration Program pursuant to Local Civil Rule 16.2 does not divest the assigned Judge or Magistrate Judge of the responsibility for exercising overall management control over a case during the pendency of the arbitration process, nor does it preclude the parties from filing pretrial motions or pursuing discovery.


The management of cases that enter the arbitration program will continue to be subject to this Court's procedures regulating discovery and other pretrial matters, the applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the General Rules of the Court. All pretrial discovery is to be completed within 120 days from the date the answer was filed. The 120-period will apply to all cases unless the assigned Judge orders a shorter or longer period for discovery. The parties must complete all discovery before the arbitration hearing. Unlike other cases, these dates will not be extended except where a new party has been joined recently or an exceptional reason is presented to the Judge or Magistrate Judge. Extended discovery and the final pretrial conference will be eliminated. This means approximately one (1) month following the filing of the last responsive pleading plus a 120-day discovery period, or at such other date as set by the scheduling order the case will be set for arbitration through the arbitration clerk.


This procedure provides the litigants with a prompt and less expensive alternative to the traditional courtroom trial and relieves the heavy burden of the constantly increasing case load. The Court intends for the resulting arbitration hearing to be similar in purpose to a bench trial but without the formality required by the Federal Rules of Evidence.


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PART B

ARBITRATOR'S RESPONSIBILITIES FOR MANAGING

THE ARBITRATION HEARING PROCESS


Although the assigned District Judge or Magistrate Judge retains overall responsibility for cases referred to the arbitration program, the Court delegates authority to the arbitrator to control and regulate the scope and duration of the arbitration hearing, including:

1. Ruling upon the admissibility of testimonial evidence.

2. Ruling upon the admissibility of documentary evidence.

3. Ruling upon the admissibility of demonstrative evidence.

4. Ruling upon objections to evidence.

5. Ruling upon requests of counsel to excuse individual parties or authorized corporate representatives from attending the arbitration hearing.

6. Commencing the hearing in the absence of a party.

7. Limiting the time for presentation of evidence and summary arguments by a party.

8. Compelling the presence of witnesses, if desirable.

9. Swearing witnesses.

OATH - "YOU DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (OR AFFIRM) THAT THE TESTIMONY YOU GIVE THE ARBITRATOR(S) IN THIS CASE NOW ON FOR HEARING SHALL BE THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, SO HELP YOU GOD.

*(DELETE "SO HELP YOU GOD" IF OATH IS BY AFFIRMATION.)

10. Adjourning the arbitration hearing to a date certain, (in consultation with the arbitration clerk) not to exceed 30 days from the Court-ordered date, to accommodate lengthy proceedings or an unavailable witness whom the arbitrator determines to be essential to the proceedings.

11. Preparing the arbitration award.


The scope of delegation to the arbitrator does not include the powers to:

1. Exercise civil or criminal contempt.

2. Continue the hearing for an indefinite period.

3. Award attorney's fees unless they are an integral part of the claim (Attorneys fees which are provided by statute to a prevailing party will be considered by the district judge upon motion following the arbitration proceedings.)


ARBITRATOR AS ADJUDICATOR. The arbitrator's role is as a non-jury adjudicator of the facts based upon evidence and arguments presented at the arbitration hearing. The arbitrator is not a mediator, and the arbitrator shall not convene a settlement discussion at any point prior to the arbitration hearing. The arbitrator may discuss settlement after an award has been entered if requested to do so by the parties. All requests for settlement discussions are to be made through the assigned Judge or Magistrate Judge. The Court expects that the arbitrator and counsel shall strive at all times to preserve the essential functions of a finder of facts at a hearing which, though less formal than a trial, nonetheless inspires similar confidence in the objectivity and validity of the fact-finding process.


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PART C

SUGGESTED FORMAT FOR THE PRESENTATION OF EVIDENCE

AT ARBITRATION HEARINGS


The Court intends that attorneys/parties shall be prepared to present evidence through any combination of exhibits, affidavits, deposition transcripts, expert reports and, if desirable, live testimony. The Court further expects that testimonial evidence shall be limited to situations involving issues of credibility of witnesses. Evidence shall be presented primarily through the attorneys for the parties who may incorporate arguments on such evidence in their presentation. Expert opinion may normally be presented through written reports, although live expert testimony is desirable where helpful to resolving profound differences of opinion between such experts through direct and cross-examination. In a general sense, the Court envisions this presentation process to be somewhat similar to a combination of opening and closing arguments augmented by live testimony and exhibits to aid the arbitrator's fact-finding function.


In developing their arguments counsel may present only factual representations supportable by reference to discovery materials, to a signed statement of a witness, to a stipulation, to a document, or by a representation that counsel personally spoke with the witnesses and is repeating what the witness stated.


Arbitrators and counsel are reminded that Local Civil Rule 16.2.6.G. notes that the Federal Rules of Evidence shall be employed as a guide; however, the Rules should not be construed in a manner to preclude the presentation of evidence submitted by counsel in the fashion discussed above. Copies of all exhibits, except exhibits intended solely for impeachment, must be marked for identification and delivered to adverse parties at least 10 days prior to the hearing. (Copies must also be provided to the arbitration panel at least 10 days prior to the hearing.)


With respect to the admissibility and subsequent use of evidence offered at an arbitration hearing, counsel are reminded that Local Civil Rule 16.2.8.B. provides:


"Upon demand for a trial de novo, the action shall be placed on the trial calendar of the Court and treated for all purposes as if it had not been referred to arbitration. Any right of trial by jury which a party would otherwise have shall be preserved inviolate."


Therefore, neither the fact that the case was arbitrated nor the amount of the arbitrator's award is admissible. However, testimony given on the record in the arbitration hearing may be used to impeach the credibility of a witness at any subsequent trial de novo. In light of the limitation placed by the Court on the use of exhibits at subsequent Court proceedings, the arbitrator should return all exhibits to counsel at the conclusion of the arbitration hearing.

 

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PART D

ATTENDANCE OF PARTIES

PARTICIPATION IN A "MEANINGFUL MANNER"


Although Local Rule 16.2.6.C. provides for the arbitration hearing to proceed in the absence of any party, the Court has determined that the attendance of the parties and/or corporate representatives is essential for the hearing to proceed in a meaningful manner. The goals of the arbitration program and the authority of the Court will be seriously undermined if a party were permitted to refuse to attend an arbitration hearing and then demand a trial de novo. Accordingly the Court has in the same rule allowed for the imposition of "appropriate sanctions, including, but not limited to, the striking of any demand for a trial de novo" filed by a party who fails to participate in the arbitration process in such a "meaningful manner." Failure by a party or counsel to follow these Guidelines will also be considered in determining whether there has been meaningful participation in the process.


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PART E

STENOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT


Pursuant to the provision of Local Civil Rule 16.2.6.H. ,a party desiring to have a recording and/or transcript made of the arbitration hearing shall make all necessary arrangements for same and shall bear all expenses so incurred.

 

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PART F

THE ARBITRATION PROCEDURE - A SUMMARY


Upon receipt of the notice scheduling the case to proceed to arbitration and appointing an arbitrator(s), counsel for the plaintiff shall promptly forward to the arbitrator(s) copies of all pleadings as limited by F.R.C.P. 7, including any counterclaim or third party complaint and answers thereto, and pretrial statements. Thereafter, and at least ten (10) days prior to the arbitration hearing, each counsel shall deliver to the arbitrator(s) and to adverse counsel pre-marked copies of all exhibits including expert reports and all portions of depositions and interrogatories to which reference will be made at the hearing (but not including documents intended solely for impeachment). Failure to timely submit such exhibits may be deemed a failure to meaningfully participate in the process under Local Rule 16.2.6.


The arbitrator will have reviewed the pleadings prior to the arbitration hearing. At least one week prior to the scheduled date for the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator should conduct a conference call with the attorneys to determine whether live testimony will be necessary and who the witnesses will be.


The following is presented as an example of the agenda for a typical arbitration hearing; however, the arbitrator is empowered to define the scope and sequence of events at the hearing.

1. Arbitrators should report to the Courtroom a least 20 minutes prior to the commencement of the hearing. If there is a question about courtroom assignments, please contact the arbitration clerk located in Room 819, 412-644-3530.


2. Convening of the arbitration hearing and introduction of the arbitrator, counsel for the parties, and the parties.


3. Brief procedural overview presented by the arbitrator.


4. Opening statement by plaintiff's counsel.


5. Opening statement by defendant's counsel.


6. Presentation of evidence by plaintiff's counsel including if desirable, live testimony.


7. Presentation of evidence by defendant's counsel including if desirable, live testimony.


8. Summation by plaintiff's counsel.


9. Summation by defendant's counsel.


10. Adjournment of the arbitration hearing.


11. Retirement of the arbitrator for deliberation and for documentation of the arbitration award.


12.* Comments by members of the panel on the reasons for the award.


13.* Questions by the parties.


*These two steps are believed to be critical to the purpose of the arbitration program. An understanding of the reasons for the arbitrators' decision should assist the parties in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their positions thereby contributing to an early resolution of the dispute.


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PART G

PROCESSING OF THE ARBITRATION AWARD


The arbitration award shall be filed with the clerk promptly after the trial is concluded; however, in exceptional circumstances the award shall be filed within ten (10) days. When the award is filed the Clerk's Office will docket the fact of the award, leaving out the details, mail a copy of the award to the arbitrator and counsel, seal the award, and place it in the safe.


If no trial de novo is requested, the award will become a final judgment and will be unsealed. If a trial de novo is requested within the time established by Rule 16.2., the award will remain sealed unless otherwise ordered by the Court.


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PART H

COMPENSATION OF ARBITRATORS


A single arbitrator shall be paid $250.00 per day pursuant to Local Civil Rule 16.2.3.D., or $100.00 for each day or portion of a day if serving as a member of a panel of three. Each arbitrator should submit a voucher on the form provided by the arbitration clerk for payment by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts of compensation and out-of-pocket expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties under this Rule.


Although the Clerk's Office does not make any deductions from the compensation paid to arbitrators, it should be treated as ordinary income for tax purposes.


Any questions, comments or suggestions regarding the Arbitration Program under Local Civil Rule 16.2 should be directed to:


Arbitration Clerk

Room 819 U.S. Post Office and Courthouse

Seventh Avenue and Grant Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

412-208-7515

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