Mandatory Arbitration

Some courts automatically send cases for money to arbitration for decision. The cases are not decided by a judge. This is called mandatory arbitration. The cases must only sue for money, like small claims cases. Cases asking to make someone do something, like return or fix something, do not go to arbitration. The amount of money must be:

  • $6,000 or less in a City or District Court, or
  • $10,000 or less in a New York City Civil Court

In these cases, the court does not give you a choice between arbitration and a judge. You must go to arbitration. Read Part 28 Rules of the Chief Judge to learn more.

Note: The information on this page does not apply to arbitrations under the FDRP (Fee Dispute Resolution Program). The FDRP is for cases over legal fees you don’t think you should pay your ex-lawyer. Read Part 137 Rules of the Chief Judge to learn more about FDRP arbitrations.

Arbitrators under Part 28 are attorneys appointed by the court. Your case may be decided by one arbitrator or a panel of three arbitrators. You should get ready for the hearing the same way you would get ready for trial. Arbitrators apply the same law to the case as a judge. After the hearing, the arbitrator files a report and award within 20 days. The decision can’t be appealed. But, either side can ask for a new trial before a judge. This is called a Trial de Novo.

Difference Between Mandatory and Voluntary Arbitration
Mandatory Voluntary
Automatically sent to arbitration. You have no choice. Both sides agree to arbitration. You choose between and arbitrator and a judge.
If you don't agree with the decision you can ask for a new trial (trial de novo). You sign an agreement to accept the arbitrator's decision whether you win or lose. No appeal.

Court rules allow for voluntary arbitration in small claims cases. But, not all courts offer it. Voluntary arbitration is sometimes called “binding arbitration.”

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