Federal Question Jurisdiction and the Federal Arbitration Act

37 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2008 Last revised: 25 May 2009

Richard A. Bales

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law

Jamie Ireland

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law

Date Written: September 26, 2008

Abstract

The Federal Arbitration Act gives signatories to an arbitration agreement the right to have that agreement specifically enforced. The FAA does not, however, confer federal subject matter jurisdiction. Absent federal jurisdiction, a party seeking enforcement under the FAA must sue in state court. State courts, however, are far more likely than federal courts to use state contract law doctrines to avoid enforcing arbitration agreements. This has led parties seeking enforcement to look for other ways into federal court.

Some federal courts have found jurisdiction over enforcement actions when the underlying dispute involves a federal question, such as when an employer is seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement against an employee who has sued for employment discrimination under Title VII. These courts reason that the text and history of the FAA require courts to "look through" the dispute about enforceability to the underlying dispute. Other courts, however, have concluded that such a "look through" is inconsistent with the text and history of the FAA and with the well-pleaded complaint rule.

Our article explains that the difficulty of choosing one approach over the other is exacerbated because the same interpretive tools can be marshaled in favor of each approach, and because the arguments made using each interpretive tool are not mutually exclusive. Our article argues that courts should adopt the "look through" approach.

Keywords: faa, federal arbitration act, jurisdiction, look through, underlying dispute

Suggested Citation

Bales, Richard A. and Ireland, Jamie, Federal Question Jurisdiction and the Federal Arbitration Act (September 26, 2008). University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 80, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1274246

Richard A. Bales (Contact Author)

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law ( email )

525 South Main Street
Ada, OH 45810
United States
419-772-2205 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.onu.edu/node/3073

Jamie Ireland

Northern Kentucky University - Salmon P. Chase College of Law ( email )

Nunn Hall
Highland Heights, KY 41099
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
550
Rank
39,165
Abstract Views
2,907