Motion to “Clarify” Rejected as Untimely Motion to Modify Arbitration Award

Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc. v. Clanton, [Ms. 1210120, Dec. 16, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Bolin, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur) reverses the Jefferson Circuit Court’s judgment granting a motion filed by Steve Clanton to remand for clarification an arbitration award issued by Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. The Court agrees with appellant Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc. (“CUI”) that Clanton’s request for clarification was in substance an untimely request to modify the arbitration award. Ms. *7.

The Court explains:

“Judicial review of arbitration awards is ‘narrowly limited,’ and the FAA presumes that arbitration awards will be confirmed.” Gianelli Money Purchase Plan & Trust v. ADM Inv. Servs., Inc., 146 F.3d 1309, 1312 (11th Cir. 1998) (quoting Davis v. Prudential Sec., Inc., 59 F.3d 1186, 1190 (11th Cir. 1995)); Maxus, Inc. v. Sciacca, 598 So. 2d 1376, 1380 (Ala. 1992) (stating that “the role of the courts in reviewing the arbitration award is limited”). It is well established that, “[a]bsent a timely motion to vacate [or modify], in most cases ‘the confirmation of an arbitration award is a summary proceeding that makes what is already a final arbitration award a judgment of the court.’” Domino Grp. Inc. v. Charlie Parker Mem’l Found., 985 F.2d 417, 420 (8th Cir. 1993) (quoting Florasynth, Inc. v. Pickholz, 750 F.2d 171, 176 (2d Cir. 1984)).

The FAA provides that “[n]otice of a motion to … modify ... an award must be served upon the adverse party or his attorney within three months after the award is filed or delivered.” 9 U.S.C. § 12. The three-month period is “not subject to extension.” Barclays Cap., Inc. v. Hache, No. 16 Civ. 315 (LGS), July 12, 2016 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (not reported in Federal Supplement). Once the three-month period for filing a motion to vacate or modify has expired, a subsequent attempt to vacate or modify an arbitration award cannot generally be made, even in opposition to a later motion to confirm the award. Cullen v. Paine, Webber, Jackson & Curtis, Inc., 863 F.2d 851, 853-854 (11th Cir. 1989).

Ms. **12-13.

In reversing, the Court holds “[w]hen the language of Clanton’s motion is pierced and compared to the language of the arbitration award …, it is clear that Clanton’s motion for a clarification was, in fact, a request for a modification of the arbitration award.” Ms. *16.

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