Appeal of Arbitration Award Dismissed Because Judgment Was Never Entered; Alternate Bases For Jurisdiction Rejected

In Dawsey v. Raymind James Financial Services, Inc. [Ms. 1070861] (Ala. Feb. 6. 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of an arbitration award because the Circuit Court Clerk had not entered the judgment, as is required to begin judicial review of an award.  In its opinion, the Court rejected other bases for exercising jurisdiction over the appeal.

Following Horton Homes, Inc. v. Shaner, [Ms. 10616589] (Ala. June 20, 2008) and Jenks v. Harris, 990 So. 2d 787 (Ala. 2008), the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed an appeal of an arbitration award because the Circuit Court Clerk had not entered the arbitration award at issue as a judgment – a necessary prerequisite of judicial review of an arbitration award.  The Supreme Court remanded the case so that the judgment could be entered and the review process commenced in the trial court.

In dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court rejected two other bases on which it was argued the Court had jurisdiction even though no judgment was entered in the trial court.  First, the appellants argued that that entry of the judgment was not necessary because the case was originally filed in the Circuit Court and had been stayed pending the arbitration.  The appellants argued that the entry of the arbitration judgment is to give the trial court jurisdiction and, because the trial court already had jurisdiction, the entry of the arbitration judgment was superfluous.  The Court rejected this argument, noting that the exact same scenario was present in Jenks, and the Court dismissed the appeal in that case as well.

Second, the appellant argued that entry was not necessary because the motion to vacate was made pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 USC sec 9.  Section 9 first states that the parties in the arbitration agreement may specificy the court in which the judgment is to be entered, and the trial court has jurisdiction to review that award. The arbitration agreement in this case, however, did not specify the court in which judgment is to be entered, so the terms of 9 USC sec 9 were not met.

Section 9 of the FAA  goes on to state that if no court is specified, then the party may seek confirmation or review of the awrad "to the United States court in and for the district in which  such award was made."  The Court noted that the application for review was made in the state courtcuit court, not the federal district court.  Thus, this provision did not provide for jurisdcition without entry of judgment.