December 10, 2010
Professor Park addresses ‘autumn of arbitration’ at Geneva commencement
Arbitration of international business disputes, according to Professor William “Rusty” Park in a recent lecture in Geneva, remains healthy despite concerns expressed about the increased complexity of the process. Park noted that the arbitral system has “reached the autumn of a robust maturity, with a heightened emphasis on the arbitrators’ duties of accuracy, efficiency and fairness.”
Park was delivering the opening lecture for the University of Geneva Master in International Dispute Settlement commencement series. Among the topics considered in the lecture, high on the list was the effect of arbitrators’ previous publications on their impartiality and independence.
He warned that notions of impartiality must remain realistic if arbitrators are expected to possess experience and expertise. Otherwise, cases will end up being decided by “hermits or half-wits.”
Park suggested balance in the search for arbitrator impartiality and independence, recognizing that few individuals will have a completely blank slate when chosen to decide large international disputes.
“If an arbitrator has written an article on a genuinely open point of law which forms the nexus of one party’s case, that arbitrator should take great care to search his or her soul before accepting the appointment,” he said. “But it would be quite alarming to disqualify arbitrators from hearing a contract dispute simply because they had written a treatise on civil responsibility.”
In July, Park became the president of the London Court of International Arbitration, an organization that administers a variety of commercial and investment arbitrations which can arise between companies in different countries, or a foreign investor and a host state.
In Geneva, Park predicted that the next decade will increase tensions between what he describes as the four key duties of arbitrators: fidelity to the parties’ agreements, procedural fairness, efficiency, and rendering an enforceable award. Park noted also that an arbitrator’s duties do not necessarily mirror those of the reviewing judicial system, particularly with respect to fidelity to the parties’ contract.
Park remains confident about the future significance of cross-border arbitration. He notes, “The health of international economic cooperation depends on the availability of a relatively level playing field for dispute resolutions.”