Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 26, 2011

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An arbitrator is always meant to be a disinterested third party who listens to a case in an unbiased manner and makes a decision. This role is similar to a trial court judge and is essential because the attorneys will be acting as though this were an actual trial. 

The arbitrator is likely to ask about the nature of the case, the parties, and possibly prospective witnesses. That is so s/he can determine whether s/he has any potential conflicts of interest. Most arbitrators attempt to disclose even remote matters so that the parties will have the utmost confidence in them. Either party can decline to use an arbitrator after the disclosures are made for any reason at all. The reason does not have to be disclosed to the arbitrator or the other side. In that case, both parties will have to mutually agree upon a new arbitrator. 

The actual arbitration will run like a bench trial would. Evidence and witnesses will be presented and arguments will be made. One essential difference is that there are no objections, which allows all evidence to be presented. During the arbitration proceeding, the arbitrator may ask any necessary questions relating to the case. They might inquire about certain actions the parties took, their intent in making their choices, as well as inquiring about current law. Remember that the whole point of an arbitration is to sort out the matter in a manner similar to that of an actual trial.

Once the arbitration is complete, the arbitrator will write up an opinion and send it to both of the parties. The opinion is completely private and will not be filed publicly. If the parties agree to the decision, it is similar to settling a case. No details for the arbitration will ever be made public. In fact, unless the arbitration was ordered by the court, the public will never know that the parties were disputing in the first place.