Applying the ''Dual Standard'' When Court Reviews Arbitrator's Decision on Jurisdiction

In Town of McCandless v. McCandless Police Officers Association, 587 Pa. 525, 901 A.2d 991 (2006), the Supreme Court reviewed this Court's holding that a "dual standard" should be applied when a court reviews an arbitrator's decision on jurisdiction. Under this "dual standard," a court's review of a pure question of law is plenary. On the other hand, where resolution of the issue of jurisdiction requires fact-finding or contract interpretation, the court's review of the arbitrator's decision should be one of extreme deference. In considering this so-called dual standard, the Supreme Court held that, generally, in an Act 111 case, a court should not defer to an arbitrator on jurisdiction. It reasoned as follows: Preliminarily, we do not think that the question of the governing scope and standard of review is as straightforward as the parties and the Commonwealth Court panel majority would have it. Generally speaking, a plenary standard of review should govern the preliminary determination of whether the issue involved implicates one of the four areas of inquiry encompassed by narrow certiorari, thus allowing for non-deferential review - unless, of course, that preliminary determination itself depended to some extent upon arbitral fact-finding or a construction of the relevant CBA .... In other words, in the absence of the noted caveat, there is no reason in law or logic why a court should defer to the arbitrator on questions of whether jurisdiction existed, whether the proceedings were regular, whether there was an excess in the exercise of the arbitrator's powers, or whether constitutional rights were deprived. Id. at 540-541, 901 A.2d at 1000-1001. Thus, McCandless teaches that although there is "no reason in law or logic" to defer to the arbitrator on the question of jurisdiction, there is a "noted caveat" to this principle. This caveat provides that if resolving the question of jurisdiction "depended to some extent upon arbitral fact-finding or a construction of the relevant collective bargaining agreements (CBA)," then the Court's review is not plenary. Id.