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New York’s International Arbitration Center Hosts Welcome Reception for Commercial Division’s New International Arbitration Justice

On June 11, 2019, the New York International Arbitration Center (“NYIAC”) and members of New York’s international arbitration bar held a reception to welcome Justice Saliann Scarpulla of the New York County Commercial Division.  Earlier this year, Justice Scarpulla assumed responsibility for the Commercial Division’s specialized international arbitration part and, in that role, will hear all international arbitration matters coming before the Court.

The reception included a “bench-bar dialogue” between Justice Scarpulla and a panel of representatives from: the New York State Bar Association’s (“NYSBA”) International, Dispute Resolution, and Commercial and Federal Litigation Sections; the International Centre for Dispute Resolution; the Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution; the ICC International Court of Arbitration; and the U.S. Council for International Business.  The discussion was moderated by Charles J. Moxley, Jr., a Past Chair of the NYSBA’s Dispute Resolution Section.  The panelists spoke on a range of topics relevant to the practice of international arbitration in New York.

In her opening remarks, Justice Scarpulla expressed her enthusiasm about serving as the Commercial Division’s point person for international arbitration.  She emphasized her commitment to preserving New York’s status as a center for commercial litigation and international arbitration.  Justice Scarpulla acknowledged the efforts of her predecessor, now-retired Commercial Division Justice Charles Ramos, in promoting international arbitration, and assured members of the bar that she would continue that tradition.

Justice Scarpulla reviewed her background before coming to the bench.  She noted that she had worked at a major law firm, served as in-house counsel at a financial institution, and worked as a law secretary to a Supreme Court Justice.  She believes that this broad range of experience will help her understand the needs of international practitioners.

Justice Scarpulla then highlighted for the bar two issues on which she hopes to see innovation during her tenure in this new position.  First, Justice Scarpulla stressed the need for greater diversity among arbitration neutrals.  She observed that the utility of arbitration as an alternative form of dispute resolution depends, in large part, on parties’ confidence in the arbitration process and in the arbitrators themselves.  Justice Scarpulla explained that achieving greater diversity in the ranks of arbitrators is necessary to instill confidence in the process.  To that end, she called on the bench, bar, and arbitral institutions to work together to ensure that arbitration panels convened in New York mirror the diverse backgrounds of litigants using that forum. 

Second, Justice Scarpulla urged practitioners to seek out opportunities for technological innovation in arbitration proceedings.  She particularly highlighted the area of notice and service on parties located abroad.  Such innovation would reduce procedural burdens and delays, and hopefully enhance the efficiency of the arbitration process.  Because arbitration is ultimately a creature of contract, Justice Scarpulla called upon parties to incorporate electronic notice and service processes into their own agreements and pick up the slack left by statutes and conventions that may be lagging behind.

Stephen P. Younger, who is Vice Chair of NYIAC and a co-editor of this Blog, spoke on behalf of the bar.  He provided background information on how the New York State Bar came to recommend the formation of NYIAC and the creation of the Commercial Division’s international arbitration part.  He explained that the State Bar had formed the Task Force on New York Law in International Matters that recommended both initiatives.[1]  The thesis behind both initiatives was: “Build it and they will come.”  Mr. Younger commented that, “We have built them and people are coming to New York.”  He also highlighted the continuing need to review the development of commercial law in New York and to ensure that it remains a stable body of law that serves as an international standard.

In his remarks, Alexander G. Fessas, the Secretary General of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, praised New York’s cooperation between the bar and the bench, observing that such dialogues are rare across the world.  Mr. Fessas expressed hope that such cooperation would continue under Justice Scarpulla’s tenure. 

Other panelists reviewed developments at various arbitral institutions located in New York.  In particular, they highlighted how they have attempted to promote diversity within their corps of arbitrators.

The June 11 NYIAC reception offers a promising indication that these sorts of bench-bar dialogues will continue to make New York a leading seat for international arbitration.

By Ian C. Kerr

[1] The Task Force’s April 18, 2011 report may be found at: