Much like the state itself, Texas arbitration law has a robust and at times counter-intuitive arbitration jurisprudence. For example, while the United States Supreme Court in Hall Street Associates v. Mattel held that a contractual agreement to permit a substantive appeal of an arbitration award was unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, the Texas Supreme Court in Nafta Traders v. Quinn expressly rejected the logic of and undertook to honor such agreements under the Texas Arbitration Act. Similarly, in Hoskins v. Hoskins, the Texas Supreme Court expressly rejected common-law grounds for vacatur, recognizing only the enumerated grounds in the Texas General Arbitration Act. As a result of this and similar decisions, Texas arbitration law contains some traps and detours for the unwary.
Likewise, an arbitration practitioner would do well to consider the nature of the specific venue in which he or she may find themselves within Texas. The major metropolitan areas see a very sophisticated commercial dispute practice in which one can expect exceptional judges familiar with the interplay between arbitration and the court system. In more far-flung counties, however, the docket is likely predominated by criminal and family law matters. While the quality of the judiciary may be equally good, it has substantially broader demands on the court’s expertise and attention and may not have occasion to address arbitration issues on a regular basis. On more than one occasion, we have watched a judge accept pleas from orange-suited inmates, and even officiate a civil marriage ceremony before turning to our motion to compel arbitration. It’s always important to know ones audience.
Accordingly, we endeavor to cover both the law and practice of arbitration in Texas and offer helpful commentary and analysis for arbitration novice and the experienced arbitration practitioner venturing into unfamiliar territory here in the Lone Star State. We have created the following summary outlines of Texas arbitration law and practice with the focus on major precedents: