The majority of arbitration agreements contain provisions governing the selection and appointment of an arbitrator or arbitration panel. Private arbitration contracts may designate any person or any method for choosing a person or persons as arbitrators. If an arbitration panel is elected (usually comprised of three persons), each party may nominate or appoint one arbitrator, and both sides will decide on a “neutral” third person. Or, the parties will each select one arbitrator, and the two arbitrators will then select a third “neutral.” Alternatively, three “neutrals” may be selected by having each party alternately strike names on one list until only three names remain. In single-arbitrator arbitrations, an external source of available arbitrators is often consulted.
The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is the largest full-service ADR provider in the United States. It maintains a National Roster of Arbitrators and Mediators (containing nearly 17,000 names and resumes as of 2002). The persons named on the Roster have been nominated by leaders in their industry or profession. The AAA has strict criteria for its Roster members, and those selected are generally recognized for their standing and expertise in their fields, their integrity, and their dispute resolution skills. Many are attorneys, but being one is not a requirement. Many arbitration agreements expressly designate the use of AAA as the preferred source for arbitrators.
Under the Federal Arbitration Agreement (FAA) (see below), if an arbitration agreement does not contain a provision for the naming or appointing of an arbitrator, “the court shall designate and appoint an arbitrator …” (9 USC Section 5).