ILNews

COA extends judicial immunity to arbitrators

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a real estate broker’s action to vacate an arbitration award to another broker. In doing so, the appellate court extended judicial and quasi-judicial immunity to arbitrators and their sponsors.

Real estate broker Ron Droscha challenged the arbitration award of nearly $19,000 in favor of Scott Shepherd. The money was half of the brokers’ commission from a sale of commercial property in which Shepherd represented the seller and Droscha’s firm represented the buyer.

Originally the $37,000 in brokers’ commission was divided equally between the two companies, but Shepherd challenged the split, claiming he was entitled to the whole commission. The first arbitration panel awarded Shepherd nearly $10,000; that order was vacated, and an arbitration panel established by the Fort Wayne Association of Realtors awarded Shepherd the entire amount he wanted.

In Ron Droscha v. Scott Shepherd and Fort Wayne Area Association of Realtors, No. 52A02-1001-PL-26, Droscha filed suit against Shepherd and the association, arguing the proceedings didn’t follow the trial court instructions given when it vacated the original award granted by a different panel. The trial court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The appellate court agreed with the association that the trial court properly dismissed Droscha’s action against it because it has arbitral immunity. Relying on Olson v. Nat. Ass’n of Sec. Dealers, 85 F.3d 381 (8th Cir. 1996), the judges decided to extend judicial and/or quasi-judicial immunity to arbitrators and their sponsors.

Droscha’s claim relates to the association’s appointment of a panel and the panel’s performance of its official decision-making function in addressing the fee dispute. That challenge is to the overall arbitration process and therefore is akin to judicial or quasi-judicial functions subject to immunity, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.  

The Court of Appeals also upheld the dismissal of claims against Shepherd, in which Droscha argued, among other things, that the panel didn’t constitute a representative peer panel. There’s no suggestion in the statutes cited by Droscha that noncompliance permits a court to vacate the arbitration award. The panel wasn’t a party to the action at the time of the trial court’s judgment, and Droscha failed to allege that the orders were introduced as an exhibit or otherwise used to inform the arbitration panel. The judges also didn’t find the panel committed misconduct that prejudiced Droscha’s rights to warrant judicial relief.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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