Part of my work involves reading court decisions to keep abreast of how judges decide the types of cases I handle. Below, I share some thoughts on recent decisions.
Arbitration May Be More Cumbersome and Expensive Than Litigation
Arbitration is traditionally considered to be a cheaper alternative to court litigation. But its filing fees are often much higher than court equivalents, and the lack of published decisions often makes arbitration difficult to navigate.
These challenges arose in a recent federal appellate decision in New York. In that case, a pension fund sued to collect money due from an orchestra. The orchestra had been entitled by statute to dispute its liability in arbitration, but the trial court held that it missed its chance. The orchestra argued it had timely sent a letter demanding arbitration. But that letter was not timely filed with the arbitrator. It also argued that it should be excused from arbitration since the filing fee was $8,200 (far more than the $400 filing fee in federal court). But the court held that the failure to timely file with the arbitrator made the complaint about fees moot.
When drafting agreements, parties should consider arbitration as an efficient way to resolve disputes. But they should also be sure they are familiar with the arbitration rules before agreeing to be bound by them.
Zoom Bench Trial Decision Offers Insight Into What Testimony Persuades Judges
Juries rarely explain the reasons for their decisions. Often, lawyers will approach jurors after a case and ask them for their thoughts, but their extemporaneous oral explanations may be brief and incomplete.
When judges decide cases, they often provide a written explanation for why they decided the way they did. In a recent decision, a Manhattan federal court judge explained why he ruled in favor of the defendants at a recent trial. He specified that some witnesses did not seem credible because they seemed argumentative and only remembered helpful facts but claimed not to remember others. Others were credible because they acted the same on direct and cross-examination. The decision also explained lots of helpful details about how a trial can take place over Zoom.
Decisions like these are helpful reminders that it is not enough to present helpful testimony at trial; the testimony needs to be convincing and credible, too.
Federal Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Blogger
People often turn to their lawyers when their reputations are attacked online, but courts may not always provide relief.
For example, a blogger recently tweeted that a journalist’s tweets were xenophobic, that his blog spread Russian bots, and that her tweets had sent the journalist into a “frenzy.” Following those tweets, the journalist lost his job and sued the blogger for defamation. But a Manhattan federal court dismissed the claim before discovery since the tweets reflected opinions, not statements that could be definitely true or false.
I was surprised by this decision because it did not seem clear to me that the allegation that the plaintiff spread Russian bots was an opinion. Still, people should be careful about what they say online. Even legal speech carries the risk of a lawsuit, and judges often decide cases in unpredictable ways.