Evident Partiality Arbitration In District of Columbia

Under the District of Columbia Uniform Arbitration Act, see D.C. Code 16-4301 to -4319 (1997) (DCUAA), judicial review of arbitral awards is extremely limited. We do not have authority to set aside an arbitral award based on our review of the merits of the arbitrators' decision. Rather, the statute permits vacation of an arbitral award for only certain limited reasons. See D.C. Code 16-4311. Even were the court to set aside an arbitral award for a statutory reason (other than the absence of an agreement to arbitrate), it may not then decide the merits of the controversy. See D.C. Code 16-4311 (c). the remedy is to order a new arbitration. See id. the party applying to the court for vacation of an arbitral award bears a "formidable" burden, Celtech, Inc. v. Broumand, 584 A.2d 1257, 1258-59 (D.C. 1991), and, if the ground pressed concerns the performance of the arbitrator, must show "specific facts which indicate improper motives on the part of the arbitrator." Id. at 1259 (quoting Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Ass'n Local Union No. 420 v. Kinney Air Conditioning Co., 756 F.2d 742, 745 (9th Cir. 1985)). Our jurisprudence similarly follows a narrow interpretation of the rule in Commonwealth Coatings. Although this is the first case in which we have considered nondisclosure of a prior collaborative relationship between an arbitrator and a participant in the arbitration, our analyses to date have focused on evidence of concrete, current or close links. See Cellular Radio, 664 A.2d at 360-61 (in case where arbitrator failed to disclose that he and counsel representing a party had been adversaries in two previous unrelated cases, nondisclosure of relationship did not warrant vacatur because the bias asserted "must be due to some financial interest or other loyalty owed to one side of the dispute"); Celtech, 584 A.2d at 1259 (in case where arbitrator's impartiality was challenged for failure to explain basis for award, vacatur unwarranted where no attempt was made to show "close financial relations for many years" or a close personal relationship).