The biblical basis for arbitration is 1 Corinthians 6:1-8:
If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.
Arbitration is governed by Rules 25 through 42 of The Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation. Arbitration is a formal process that allows the parties to present evidence (their story) to the arbitrator(s), who decide the issue(s) based on the information provided by the parties and their desired outcomes, and by applying state, federal, or local laws, with the Holy Scriptures (the Bible) being the supreme authority (Rule 4). Arbitration decisions are legally binding and can be enforced as a judgment of a civil court.
Arbitration may be used to resolve a broad range of issues. However, arbitration may not be used to resolve legal issues over which civil courts will not relinquish jurisdiction (e.g., child custody, support, and visitation); issues that are solely within the jurisdiction of the family (e.g., how to teach or discipline children); or issues that are solely within the jurisdiction of the church (e.g., determining doctrine, calling or dismissing a pastor, or exercising church discipline).
Another difference is that arbitration deals primarily with substantive issues; that is, it establishes facts and determines rights and responsibilities. To put it another way, while arbitration determines what people must do as a matter of law, mediation helps them to see what they should do as a matter of conscience. (After an arbitration decision has been issued, the arbitrators may address behavior and attitudes they observed in the parties during the conciliation process.)
In preparation for the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator will hold a conference to help the parties prepare and arrange for appropriate exchange of information prior to the hearing. The process is conciliatory rather than adversarial. In order to expedite the hearing and ensure full presentation of all relevant evidence to the arbitrator, the parties are expected to cooperate by fully disclosing their evidence to one another. The arbitrator does not meet with any party privately. All meetings and communications with the arbitrator involve all of the parties.
Parties may be represented by attorneys, with the attorneys speaking on their behalf and assisting them in the presentation of their evidence to the arbitrator. The arbitrator will apply rules for the discovery and distribution of documents, as set forth in the Rules of Procedure for Christian Conciliation.
Detailed Explanation of the Arbitration Process
The arbitration process follows seven specific steps or elements:
Defining of the Issues for Determination
During this step the parties work with the Case Administrator to identify and clearly state the issues and desired remedies they want the arbitrator(s) to consider and decide (Rule 25).
This initial meeting between the parties, the Case Administrator, and the Arbitrator(s) is for the purpose of determining the scope of the information or evidence the parties will want to present to the arbitrator (identifying the amount of documents, other physical evidence, and witness testimony they plan to present to the arbitrator(s)) so the arbitrator can determine the expected length of the arbitration hearing and set a schedule for the hearing as well as any preliminary meetings or actions that may be necessary. During this hearing the parties will be asked to agree to and make arrangements for the exchange of information, evidence, and witness information, as well as discuss and plan for any requests for information from the other party for purposes of preparing for the arbitration. This hearing is usually by telephonic conference.
In the event there are specific issues that need to be determined in advance of the arbitration hearing, such as issues of jurisdiction (Rule 19) or the exchange of documents and information (Rule 30), a preliminary hearing may be scheduled at the request of the parties, subject to the discretion of the arbitrator (Rule 28). The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to expedite the arbitration process. These hearings are usually by telephonic conference.
Opening and Providing of Opening Statements
This step is similar to the Greetings and Ground Rules and Opening Statement steps of a mediation process. The arbitrator commences the hearing with an explanation of the agenda and ground rules of conduct for the hearing. The parties are then permitted to give the arbitrator a summary of the information they want to present for purposes of helping the arbitrator decide the agreed-upon issues.
Storytelling or Presentation of Information
The parties are permitted to present the testimony of witnesses and provide documents or other physical evidence which they want the arbitrator to consider in making the decision. This information may be presented by the party in a narrative form, or by a party or their attorney asking questions of specific witnesses. The information, whether in the form of written, oral, or physical evidence, is provided subject to the arbitrator’s determination that it is relevant and reliable pursuant to Rules 14 and 36. This step usually permits the party commencing the arbitration to present their information first, with the other party having the opportunity to ask questions of the first party’s witnesses. Next, the responding party presents information, then the responding party’s witnesses are called in to answer questions. The order of presentation is subject to the discretion of the arbitrator. The arbitrator may also ask questions of the parties and their witnesses in an effort to obtain all necessary facts.
Closing Summary of Applicable Law and Scriptural Standards
After completing the receipt of all information the parties desire to present, the arbitrator will give each party an opportunity to provide information on the laws and scriptural standards they believe the arbitrator should consider in conjunction with the facts to decide the issues. The arbitrator may, at his or her discretion, ask the parties to provide this information in the form of written briefs or position papers. The arbitrator may also ask the parties to summarize the facts, laws and scriptural standards they believe should be applied, and explain in summary form why they believe the law and scriptural standards, when applied to the information, should result in the position or result they desire.
As the final step of the Arbitration hearing (excluding reconsideration, discussed below) is the arbitrator provides a decision (Rule 41). The decision or award will be issued in writing, within thirty (30) days after the close of the hearing. The arbitrator, at his or her discretion, may provide the reasoning by which the decision was reached. The decision is legally binding and enforceable by a court of law.
Post Arbitration Steps
Reopening of a Hearing or Request for Reconsideration
A hearing may be reopened by the arbitrator in his or her discretion for good cause (Rule 39).
A party may request the arbitrator to reconsider a decision within twenty (20) days after the decision is received by the parties, provided the request is based on specific reasons for reconsideration as set forth in Rule 41.
The decision of the arbitrator, once final, is not subject to appeal.