How Long to a Decision?

The parties can decide how quickly they want the case to be decided.

  • Do they want a court reporter at the hearing? (If so, the parties need to arrange to pay the court reporter.)
  • Do they want to file briefs after the hearing?
  • Do they want to wait for the court reporter to prepare the transcript before they prepare their briefs?

In simple disputes, the parties often see no need to use a court reporter or to file briefs after the hearing. When the last witness has been heard and the parties have given their closing statements, the clock starts running for the decision.

Otherwise, the submission of the last brief starts the clock running for the decision.

Usually, the rules of arbitration services provide that the arbitrator is to decide the case within 30 days after the case has been submitted. See AAA Commercial Rule 45, AAA Employment Rule 39(a), JAMS Comprehensive Arbitration Rule 24(a), and JAMS Employment Arbitration Rule 24(a).

This can be speeded up by agreement. In a particular case, the parties may choose an arbitrator who can render a decision more quickly, and arrange for that in the Case Management Order. The parties may choose an arbitrator who can decide applications for emergency relief.

This can also be slowed down by agreement. In a very complicated case, the parties may want to provide more time for the arbitrator to reach a decision.

Some arbitrators take longer than others to decide ordinary cases and routinely run over their own deadlines. Parties can complain to the arbitration services provider, and let them press the arbitrator to issue a ruling, without the arbitrator knowing which party is making his or her life uncomfortable.

The best protection against delays in rulings is choosing a good arbitrator who will rule with dispatch as well as insight.

I have never taken more than 30 days to reach a decision on the merits, and I have taken less.