Arb-Med: in Japan, not Australia?

Active settlement facilitation by arbitrators in Japan, mirroring mediation by judges following the historically German/Austrian civil procedure law tradition, remains quite persuasive. This was evident from JCAA statistics analysed a decade ago by Prof Tatsuya Nakamura, prompting my commentary on this Blog (incorporated into chapter 4 of my new Elgar book, to be launched mid-year by Chief Justice Allsop of the Federal Court of Australia). Australia has also experimented with statutory Arb-Med provisions in New South Wales from 1990, and nation-wide from 2010 for domestic arbitrations under a more restrictive model, but Arb-Med has been far less popular in practice. The 2021 Rules of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration ended up not including Arb-Med provisions, but they were included (based largely on the 2010 legislation for domestic arbitation) in the September 2020 Consultation Draft Rules, so draft Article 55 reproduced below.

My analysis for a different Blog examines this topic in more detail. I suggest those draft Rule provisions could still be adapted anyway for individual contracts by parties and legal advisors (especially those from or familiar with Japan), other arbitral institutions (such as the JCAA) or legislators.

55. Mediation by an Arbitrator

55.1 An arbitrator may act as a mediator in relation to the dispute or a part of the dispute between the parties if each party has consented in writing prior to the arbitrator so acting.

55.2 If an arbitrator acts as a mediator, the arbitral proceedings must be stayed to facilitate the conduct of the mediation proceedings.

55.3 An arbitrator who is acting as a mediator:

(a) may communicate with the parties collectively or separately; and

(b) must treat any confidential information obtained from a party as confidential and for the purposes of these Rules, any information provided by one party to the arbitrator which that party: (i) has not provided to all the other parties; or (ii) has not expressly agreed can be provided to all the other parties, shall be treated as confidential.

55.4 If, during the course of any mediation, confidential information is obtained by the arbitrator and if the mediation terminates without a settlement of the entire dispute being reached, before recommencing the arbitration:

(a) the arbitrator must inform the parties if he or she has obtained confidential information during the mediation; and

(b) after so informing the party, the arbitrator must obtain the express written consent of all the parties before resuming to act as an arbitrator.

55.5 Following the termination of any mediation, no objection may be taken to the future involvement in the arbitration proceedings by the arbitrator on the grounds that the arbitrator acted as a mediator in relation to the dispute:

(a) if the arbitrator obtains the express written consent of all the parties to the arbitration required by Article 55.1; or

(b) if the arbitrator did not obtain any confidential information during the course of the mediation.

55.6 If an arbitrator has obtained confidential information during the course of any mediation and all parties do not consent to the resumption of the arbitration proceedings by the arbitrator, the arbitrator’s appointment is taken to have been terminated. Upon such termination, a replacement arbitrator is to be confirmed or appointed pursuant to the procedure by which the arbitrator being replaced was confirmed or appointed, except that:

(a) if there is a sole arbitrator, and if within [40] days of the parties authorising the arbitrator to act as mediator the parties have not reached agreement on the choice of a replacement sole arbitrator and provided written evidence of their agreed nomination to ACICA, the replacement sole arbitrator shall be appointed by ACICA with a mandate to commence upon termination of the appointment of the arbitrator who acted as mediator; or

(b) if there are three arbitrators, and if within [60] days of the parties authorising one or more arbitrators to act as mediator the parties have not reached agreement on the choice of one or more replacement arbitrators arbitrator and provided written evidence of their agreed nomination to ACICA, the replacement sole arbitrator(s) shall be appointed by ACICA with a mandate to commence upon termination of the appointment of the arbitrator(s) who acted as mediator.

Author: Luke Nottage

Prof Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM Kyoto) is founding co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), Associate Director (Japan) of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), and Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School. He specialises in international dispute resolution, foreign investment law, contract and consumer (product safety) law.