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Legal Memorandum: Appeal of an Order to Compel Arbitration

Issue: Under the rulings of the Third Circuit, is a District Court’s order to compel arbitration appealable?

Area of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Order to compel arbitration; Collateral order doctrine; Appeal
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 28 U.S.C. §1291; 28 U.S.C. § 1391
Date: 03/01/2007

A District Court’s orders to compel arbitration are sufficiently “final” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1291 by reason of the collateral order doctrine.  That doctrine is fully applicable when (1) the order appealed conclusively determines the disputed question; (2) the order resolves an important question that is completely separate from the merits of the dispute; and (3) the order is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.   Thus, pursuant to the doctrine of Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp. 37 U.S. 541 (1949), orders compelling arbitration are sufficiently “final” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1291 to confer appellate jurisdiction.

 Typically, the appellate court acquires jurisdiction through “final judgments” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1291.  See In re Diet Drugs Prods. Liab. Litig. (In re Diet Drugs II), 418 F.3d 372, 376 (3d Cir. 2005).  Generally, a “final” judgment or order is one that “ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.”  Id. (quoting Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945)).   However, in Cohen, the Court stated that there is a category of collateral orders which, although they do not fall within the usual definition of “final” orders employed in §1291, are nonetheless sufficiently final to constitute orders appealable under that statute.  Cohen, 337 U.S. 546-47.  With respect to such matters, the Court gives the term “final,” as used in the jurisdictional statute, a “practical rather than a technical construction.”  Id. at 546.  Hence, there […]

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