Many of us over the years have worried not only about the process and fairness of mandatory arbitration, but also exactly who is doing the arbitrating. Apparently, this is a shared concern. In a filing in a New York state court, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) argues that the lack of diversity of arbitrators available to him violates equal protection under the law. (Hat tip to Ben Davis for posting on the listserve!)
From the filing:
When Mr. Carter began reviewing arbitrators on the AAA’s Search Platform… he was confronted with a stark reality: he could not identify a single African-American arbitrator on the “Large and Complex Cases” roster, composed of hundreds of arbitrators, that had the background and experience to preside over the Arbitration. After repeated requests to the AAA for diverse arbitrators with expertise in complex commercial law, the AAA was able to provide only three neutrals it identified as African-American: two men—one of whom was a partner at the law firm representing Iconix in this arbitration and thus had a glaringly obvious conflict of interest—and one woman.
The AAA’s lack of African-American arbitrators with the expertise necessary to arbitrate “Large and Complex Cases” came as a surprise to Petitioners, in part because of the AAA’s advertising touting its diversity. This blatant failure of the AAA to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators for complex commercial cases is particularly shocking given the prevalence of mandatory arbitration provisions in commercial contracts across nearly all industries, which undoubtedly include minority owned and operated businesses. The AAA’s arbitration procedures, and specifically its roster of neutrals for large and complex cases in New York, deprive black litigants like Mr. Carter and his companies of the equal protection of the laws, equal access to public accommodations, and mislead consumers into believing that they will receive a fair and impartial adjudication.
Go Jay-Z! Sometimes it take a celebrity to really shine a light on broken processes and if this forces AAA and other providers to look carefully at their rosters for lack of race, ethnic, and gender diversity, we will all be better off.