Federal Arbitration Act Forbids Courts From Weighing In On Arbitrability

The Federal Arbitration Act permits parties to enter into contracts agreeing that an arbitrator, rather than a court, will resolve disputes arising out of that contract. However, sometimes there are disputes as to whether a particular claim is subject to arbitration under the agreement. Even when contracts delegate the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, some federal courts had reserved for themselves the power to determine whether a particular claim to arbitrability was “wholly groundless,” rather than allowing the arbitrator to make that decision, causing a circuit split. The Court, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Kavanaugh, held that the Act precluded the courts from making the arbitrability determination, even under the “wholly groundless” standard, where a contract expressly delegates that authority to the arbitrator. The Court declined to determine whether the contract at issue in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. in fact contained such language to delegate arbitrability determinations to an arbitrator, and so remanded the case for further proceedings.