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The Supreme Court’s most recent set of arbitration law rulings — Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l, Rent-A-Center West v. Jackson, and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion — merits all the attention it has been receiving. Taken collectively, the three decisions evidence the powerful commitment of a Supreme Court majority to arbitration as an alternative form of dispute resolution — a commitment so strong as to override important consumer welfare interests. At a minimum, the trilogy erects substantial barriers to the conduct of class arbitration, a form of arbitration that consumer advocates regard as essential to protecting consumer welfare.

In this article, I wish to gauge the doctrinal importance of the three rulings in terms both of their departure from long-established axioms of arbitration and the definitiveness with which they have disposed of the politically charged issues they address. I conclude that these decisions are both bold and deeply flawed, but that they also leave open possibilities for advocates and courts that are inclined to resist the sharp movement in the law that the trilogy represents.


Dispute Resolution and Arbitration | Law | Supreme Court of the United States