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U.S. District Judge Edward ChenU.S. District Judge Edward Chen (Hillary Jones-Mixon)

SAN FRANCISCO—Ninth Circuit Judge Richard Clifton wasn’t mincing words.

“The district court does not have the authority to ignore circuit court precedent,” Clifton wrote in Wednesday’s opinion sending disputes on behalf of tens of thousands of Uber drivers into arbitration, “and neither do we.”

It was a sharp rebuke of U.S. District Judge Edward Chen from a unanimous panel that took issue with almost every aspect of his decision deeming Uber Technologies Inc.’s arbitration agreements unenforceable. Clifton suggested Chen found “artificial” reasons not to direct the dispute over driver background checks into arbitration, misread “unambiguous” terms in the agreement and deviated from clear legal precedent.

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