Recently I received notice of my potential appointment to an arbitration panel, by an organization that facilitates such things. Candidates to serve as an arbitrator are required by law and various ethics codes to disclose all kinds of things that might create a conflict, or even the appearance of a conflict. Prior dealings with one of the lawyers, previous experience with the subject matter of the dispute, and so forth are all things that should be disclosed. I try to be meticulous. Attend church with one of the lawyers, even if they sit several pews away? Use to be a “soccer dad” years ago when my daughter and the daughter of one of the lawyers were on the same club team and we watched many a game on the freezing, or rainy, or blistering hot sidelines? And I have the weird circumstance of having run for Congress in 2006 when I raised about a half million dollars from guess who – lawyers and law firms in Dallas!
Anyway I responded to the notice with my usual detailed disclosures. The case administrator emailed me back and said, “Will, if I forward your disclosures to all counsel there is a decent chance you will be struck from the panel”. And my response was, “I know, that’s the point of the disclosures!”
I get struck sometimes. Thankfully, not often. But I don’t want to be an arbitrator in any matter where there is something in the background, something that might cause one of the parties to question my ability to remain neutral. There has never been a motion to recuse me that had to be heard, because I always simply withdraw. What I have learned over the years is that more often than not it seems that my disclosures are so thorough that whoever is reading them thinks, “if he’s going to be this transparent we can probably trust him”! Honesty, for all kinds of reasons, is the best policy!