Refusal to Grant Adjournment

Third Time is not a charm

Whale Securities Co., L.P. v. Godfrey, No. 565 (App. Div., 1Dept., 4/4/00): When SAC summarized the decision below, 10 SAC 9(16), we set out the facts in detail and posed the question: “How would you decide?” The question at hand, whether the Arbitrators engaged in misconduct by refusing Mr. Godfrey a postponement, seemed a tight call. The motion court answered in the affirmative, in good part because the reason for the postponement request was a conflict with a jury trial date. The appellate Opinion is short, but it unanimously reverses the trial court’s vacatur. For one thing, arbitrators must have the discretion to govern their proceedings. Additionally, this was “respondent’s third request for an adjournment” and, while he might have accepted, Mr. Godfrey “rejected the representation of an associate from his counsel’s firm who was … a competent lawyer.” Finally, the Court pounces upon the motion court for applying a broader than usual scope of judicial review reserved for “compulsory” rather than “voluntary” arbitration. “An arbitration is not ‘compulsory’ such as to confer a broader scope of judicial review unless the obligation arises out of a statutory mandate…. Here, the parties were obligated by their written agreement to arbitrate the matter.”

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