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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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