Freeman Files Reply Brief Alleging Arbitrator Bias
October 22, 2012

by Casey Neeley,

Counsel for appellant James D. Freeman filed a reply brief Friday outlining their appeal argument alleging the arbitrator who originally heard the case was biased in favor of PPG and Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW).

The appeal argument hinges on the "appearance of bias" under the legal standard of "evident partiality." Appearance of bias warrants that all arbitrators disclose any "information that might raise an appearance of bias, or an actual conflict of interest," states counsel for Freeman in the brief. Appellant counsel further argues that the arbitrator did not disclose the full extent of her relationship with PPG, which created evidence of her partiality toward the corporation.

According to statements in the brief, the appellants allege that the bias was established through campaign contributions made by PPG to the arbitrator. Appellants further argue that PPG's 40 percent holdings in PGW as a parent company are enough to bind the two companies as having common interests.

"Not only is the arbitrator legally obligated to disclose her known direct or indirect financial or personal interests, she is expected to 'make reasonable effort to inform' herself of any such interests or relationship," reads the brief.

Appellants also argue that the arbitrator cannot claim ignorance of the donations.

"The arbitrator should have made a reasonable inquiry to determine what information should have been disclosed," says counsel for Freeman. "Had the arbitrator made any reasonable inquiry, she would have discovered the campaign contributions even if she was not previously aware of them."

"As a former appellate judge and Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidate, she should be expected to be cognizant of the rules of judicial ethics and to adhere to them," continues counsel for Freeman in the brief. Finally, officials for the appellant contend that Freeman's trust in the arbitrator's ethics lead to the unfavorable ruling.

"As a result of his reasonable placement of such trust, appellant was substantially prejudiced, because he was deprived of the right to have his case heard by a neutral tribunal," say officials in the brief.

Counsel for Freeman appealed a 2010 decision in his age discrimination case against PGW. Freeman asked the court to reverse the decision in August. The former employee made the appeal after attempts to appeal the arbitrator's decision were denied in April 2012.

PGW had not returned requests for comment at the time of press.

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