Monday, July 31, 2017
Brian Farkas has posted The Continuing Voice of Dissent: Justice Thomas and the Federal Arbitration Act to SSRN.
Since 1984, a majority of the Supreme Court has held that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) preempts conflicting state arbitration laws, and that the FAA must be applied in state courts. Consequently, federal courts have invalidated many states’ attempts to regulate arbitration. This reality has shaped American arbitration law for over three decades. Justice Clarence Thomas has vigorously fought against this approach to arbitration policy since he joined the Supreme Court. Indeed, he has been among the most vocal and consistent opponents of the application of the FAA in state court proceedings. Yet his voice has always been in dissent, most recently in the December 2015 decision in DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia. This Article represents the most comprehensive examination to date of Justice Thomas’ views on both the FAA and arbitration more broadly. Beginning with a background on the FAA’s history and the Supreme Court’s arbitration jurisprudence, it explores his unique judicial philosophy and its intersection with arbitration policy. In an area of procedural law that evades facile labels of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,’ Justice Thomas shows the ways in which a conservative preference for states’ rights can actually lead to liberal procedural and substantive outcomes.