In a case before it this term, the U.S. Supreme Court will face the important task of reconciling the two fundamental policies underlying the nation’s arbitration system and determining which one should take precedence: freedom of contract, or efficient dispute resolution.

The question arises in a relatively little-noticed case, Hall Street Assocs. LLC v. Mattel Inc., 127 S. Ct. 2875 (No. 06-989 2007), in which the Court will address a split of authority on the enforceability of contractual provisions expanding the standard of review that federal courts may apply to arbitration awards. The U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals are divided on the issue, and amicus briefs have been submitted both in favor of and against the contractual expansion of judicial review. See Marcia Coyle, “Justices take a critical look at arbitration,” The National Law Journal, Oct. 29 at 1.