Virginia Law Review – In Brief – 4/7/2010

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In Brief, the online companion to the Virginia Law Reviewrecently published an essay by David Horton concerning the upcoming Rent-a-Center v. Jackson case, scheduled for oral arguments before the Supreme Court in April 2010, which the author argues will have “profound implications” for the future of American dispute resolution.  The essay is entitled, “The Mandatory Core of Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act.”

Professor Horton writes: “The issue before the Court is not the merits of Antonio Jackson’s civil rights lawsuit against his former employer, nor even the validity of the mandatory arbitration contract that he was required to sign before he could begin work. Instead, the Court must decide whether Jackson—and the hundreds of millions of other employees, consumers, and franchisees who are subject to mandatory arbitration clauses—have a non-waivable right to challenge the fairness of such provisions in federal court. Because the Federal Arbitration Act (‘FAA’) allows courts to nullify one-sided arbitration clauses under the unconscionability doctrine, the judiciary has traditionally served as a bulwark against harsh dispute resolution terms. Yet the contract at issue in Rent-a-Center expressly gives the arbitrator, not courts, the sole authority to decide whether ‘any part of this Agreement is void.'”

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