As this blog has chronicled in the past, it is extremely difficult for an arbitral award to be vacated. The Federal Arbitration Act and many state arbitral acts provide very limited grounds for vacatur, as courts are reluctant to second-guess an arbitrator's decision. Indeed, courts have even refused to vacate awards when the arbitrator erred in his application of the law. Even a "grave error" made by the arbitrator is insufficient to vacate an award, as it is not amongst the grounds for vacating a decision.
In yet another example of the great deference accorded to arbitral decisions by U.S. Federal Courts, the Fifth Circuit recently declined to vacate or modify an award based on allegations of arbitrator misconduct. Despite intimations that the conduct of the opposing party and the arbitrator may have led to a reversal had it occurred in the district court, the Fifth Circuit cited the bedrock principle that, due to a "strong federal policy favoring arbitration," judicial review of arbitration awards is "extremely narrow," and refused to vacate the award.
In a harshly worded per curiam decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the broad reach of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") and restated that the FAA "reflects an emphatic federal policy in favor of arbitral dispute resolution." The FAA is the federal statute that regulates the relationship between the judicial process and arbitration.