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New Guide for Judges in Expanding Area of International Arbitration

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A new guide on international commercial arbitration (pdf) written for U.S. federal judges is now available online. In less than 100 pages, it offers a practical overview of a complicated area of law that has become the preferred means of resolving cross-border business disputes.

Stacie Strong, a 2012-2013 Supreme Court Fellow working with the Federal Judicial Center, wrote the guide prior to beginning her fellowship year. Strong brought her unique background to the topic; she is not only a law professor at the University of Missouri, she also has practiced international commercial arbitration for a number of years in the U.S. and in England, and is dual-qualified as a U.S. lawyer and an English solicitor.

Why would a federal judge need a guide on international arbitration?

"Even though judges do not deal with international situations every day, those kinds of matters are being seen in increasing numbers across the country," said Strong. "Judges need to be prepared to deal with these somewhat challenging situations. The guide attempts to provide a very succinct background to the field of international commercial arbitration, but at the same time, to provide a very much hands-on approach to the subject."

The numbers support Strong’s assertion.  For example, in 2011,  796 requests for arbitration concerning 2,293 parties from 138 countries and independent territories were filed with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration, one of the world’s premier arbitral institutions.  According to Strong, this number is only the tip of the arbitration iceberg, since most arbitrations are private in nature. "What was very slow in the 1970s and early 1980s has just swept upward. The numbers are increasing exponentially," said Strong.

The guide doesn’t try to provide a comprehensive discussion of international commercial arbitration, but rather is structured to give the reader a basic understanding of the fundamental principles of international commercial arbitration before addressing specific matters that arise on a motion-by-motion basis.

The guide’s structure was deliberate. "We organized the text that way because we know judges don’t always have the opportunity to read from beginning to end," said Strong. "If they need to just jump straight to their own motion, they can do so, and there is cross-referencing internally, so that they can find additional information."

As the guide notes, "The biggest challenge for U.S. federal judges adjudicating international arbitral issues is understanding how the dispute at bar fits into the context of the dispute resolution process as a whole." The new guide helps federal judges do just that.

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