On May 9, the Connecticut legislature unanimously passed into law the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RUAA). With the increasing use of arbitration as a means of resolving disputes throughout the state and at the federal level, this is a positive step toward revising and modernizing arbitration procedures.
Historically, Connecticut was one of the first colonies to adopt an arbitration act. That act, dating back to 1753, was titled “An Act for the More Easy and Effective Finishing of Controversies by the Use of Arbitration.” As the use of arbitration grew nationally, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws first promulgated a Uniform Arbitration Act in 1956. In response to ever-increasing popularity of arbitration in virtually all states, the commissioners enacted the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act (RUAA) in 2000. Prior to 2018, 19 states had adopted the RUAA—but Connecticut did not.
In the years since the RUAA was first adopted, several Connecticut lawyers have persisted in urging the legislature to join the growing number of participating states. In addition, the CBA’s legislative lobbyist also played an active role. They all deserve credit for their perseverance and persistence. Likewise, the co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, William Tong, and vice chairman Steve Stafstrom, deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts and support.
Overall, the enactment of the RUAA in Connecticut renders the arbitration process much more uniform. Several noteworthy features of the act include: a provision for enforcement of agreements to arbitrate that appear in electronic documents; a provision whereby a party may apply to a court for interim relief without automatically waiving the right to arbitrate; a new obligation upon arbitrators to disclose facts that might call the arbitrator’s impartiality into question; a requirement that the arbitrator must conduct the proceedings in a fair and expeditious manner; and a specific provision that allows an arbitrator to clarify or correct an award.
One aspect of the RUAA that was not included in Connecticut’s version of the law is the provision in the RUAA related to the payment of attorney fees in post-arbitration proceedings. Those proceedings include, for example, applications to vacate or to confirm the arbitrator’s award. Although the RUAA provides that a judge may award attorney fees to the prevailing party in such proceedings, Connecticut’s version of the act does not include this provision. The main reason for this change was based on a longstanding law in Connecticut that states parties normally should pay their own attorney fees.
This move toward uniformity of procedures in alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration has very real value for practicing lawyers. Uniformity is particularly important for those practitioners who may not be thoroughly familiar with the nuances of the arbitration process. Although a seasoned practitioner over time will undoubtedly become aware of many of the particulars related to the arbitration process, there are subtle procedural rules that can cause serious problems for the uninitiated. For example, the timing and filing deadlines for applying to the court to vacate an arbitration award is a matter of subject matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, if such an application is not filed within the prescribed time limit, the court will dismiss an application to vacate based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This issue can be further complicated in the event that an arbitrator has rendered a corrected award. In at least one Connecticut case, the court dismissed an application to vacate an arbitration award in which the arbitrator had made minor corrections to the award and the filing party waited until after the corrected award was issued. With the enactment of this uniform law addressing an arbitrator’s ability to modify or correct an award, presumably such issues will not be as difficult to resolve.
The RUAA in Connecticut is set to take effect Oct. 1. While Connecticut General Statutes Section 909 (governing arbitration) remains in effect as law and will apply in certain instances, the RUAA will apply to arbitration agreements entered into after Oct. 1. We applaud the legislature’s move toward uniformity of arbitration procedures in Connecticut.