John Hancock Life Ins. Co. v. Patten
This case raised questions about the extent to which courts can review arbitration decisions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had held that an arbitrator “manifestly disregarded the law” when he dismissed the plaintiff’s wrongful-termination and employment-discrimination claims because he thought that the arbitration contained a time limit for bringing such claims, when it clearly did not. The defendant company asked the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that arbitration awards should not be overturned when an arbitrator deliberately ignores the law, even though the courts of appeals have allowed such review of arbitration awards for half a century. Public Citizen successfully opposed the company’s effort to seek Supreme Court review.