NY Court’s Vacature of Rabbinical Arbitration Decision Ripe For Appeal

January 22, 2009

gavelMitchell Rubenstein, Senior Counsel at NYS United Teachers and an adjunct professor at St. John’s Law School, has some interesting comments on this recent King’s County Supreme Court decision to vacate a rabbinical court arbitration decision in an employment matter.

In Brisman v. HAFTR, a teacher was fired. Claiming wrongful termination, both sides agreed to arbitrate the matter in the rabbinical court, Beth Din of America.  The rabbinical court made its decision and the school appealed it. For more details on why the New York court vacated the arbitrator’s decision, you can read the details, quoted from the New York Law Journal, on the Adjunct Law Prof Blog’s post on the subject.

According to Mr. Rubenstein, this case is ripe for appeal, should Mr. Brisman decide to take it to the Appellate Division because the court innappropriately reviewed the merits of the arbitrator’s decision (a  big no-no) and also because it got involved in matters of religoius law, another big no-no.

Update 2/19/10: Judge Balter’s vacature of the arbitration decree has be overturned!

Picture courtesy of thomasmoore.org

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14 Responses to “NY Court’s Vacature of Rabbinical Arbitration Decision Ripe For Appeal”

  1. Y Mark Says:

    Mr. Rubenstein speaks nonsense (and yes, as a Law student, I call tell you that even Law professors have a tendency to do that sometimes). First, let us make a clear distinction – the court did not vacate the arbitration decision, it simply refused to confirm it. Arbitration decisions are not automatically entitled to confirmation (which is why Brisman had to go to court to have the award confirmed).

    At that, ultimately, as an arbitration court, the Beth Din operates within the context and confines of American law and public policy. An arbitration agreement is not a license for a court to run amok. Could the Beth Din, for instance, rule that HAFTR’s board should be flogged for firing Brisman? Of course not. If a Beth Din’s ruling violates American law or public policy – regardless of its purported merit in Jewish law (and that is also highly questionable here) – no American court can or should confirm it.

    Given the facts of the case, it would appear that the court did the right thing. As a reportedly Orthodox Jew, it took courage for Judge Balter to stand on principle. And kudos to him for doing so.


  2. Y Mark,

    Thanks for the background on arbitration. I had assumed that HAFTR had appealed the arbitration decision, not that it required “confirmation” on the merits before the court could enforce it.

    And of course, pursuant to the statute the court was considering, it can refuse to enforce the Beth Din’s arbitration decision based on, among other things, public policy. But I would question what you meant by saying that “the Beth Din operates within the… confines of American law…” If you meant that the arbitration decision will only be confirmed if it violates strong public policies or other extraordinary circumsnces named in the statute, then I understand. But if you meant that the decision had to be in the confines of American law (i.e. making someone pay only when American law would also say they had to pay) then I would have to disagree, based on the statute at issue in the case.

    Clarification would be appreciated. Thanks also for the information on the judge. Interesting!

  3. Debty Says:

    Ahaan… I will follow.


  4. […] 14, 2009 As reported here, and as Mitchell Rubenstein predicted, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court will consider a […]


  5. […] are federal and state law exceptions to the general enforcability of arbitration agreements. We wrote earlier about the nullification of an arbitration award by a rabbinical tribunal back in January by a […]


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  13. […] reported here, and as Mitchell Rubenstein predicted, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court will consider a […]


  14. […] are federal and state law exceptions to the general enforcability of arbitration agreements. We wrote earlier about the nullification of an arbitration award by a rabbinical tribunal back in January by a […]


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