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TUBE & STEEL CORP. OF AMERICA v. CHICAGO CARBON ST

December 4, 1970

In the Matter of the Arbitration between TUBE & STEEL CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Petitioner,
v.
CHICAGO CARBON STEEL PRODUCTS, Respondent


Pollack, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLACK

POLLACK, District Judge.

Petitioner moves to confirm an arbitration award and to enter judgment thereon. The respondent seeks to vacate the award. The arbitration was conducted in respondent's absence. The respondent had vainly tried to obtain a one week adjournment of the date of the hearing. The arbitrators refused the requested postponement and the petitioner insisted on proceeding.

 A review of the entire record hereon convinces the Court that there was a patent procedural unfairness to the respondent. The personal convenience of the arbitrators was made a paramount concern over the reasonable availability and convenience of the parties. This is not tolerable conduct or good cause for refusal of a reasonable request for a one week adjournment of a hearing, particularly when the summer months of the year were involved and the respondent was required to leave his business and come a thousand miles from Chicago to New York to attend the hearing.

 The demand for arbitration was made on March 30, 1970. The matter then proceeded at a pedestrian pace until the date was to be fixed for a hearing. The petitioner was represented throughout by a firm of attorneys and the respondent, a partnership, appeared pro se. The respondent was plainly unfamiliar with arbitration procedure and registered objections that were not cognizable except through court proceedings. However, on receipt of the names proposed by the arbitration association as arbitrators, on April 22nd, respondent complied promptly with the request to deal with the nominees by agreeing to accept any three arbitrators whom the association would choose.

 The respondent was apprised in April, 1970 by the association's tribunal administrator, that the arbitration could be held between the 16th and 19th of June, 1970, and on April 22, 1970, respondent agreed to be ready for that time. For reasons not accounted for in the record, the association did not adhere to the dates it had suggested to respondent and did not schedule a hearing in June.

 Some time before July 9th, the parties had been told that all three arbitrators were available for a hearing on August 17. That date was acceptable to the petitioner and to the respondent who had advised the association that he could not appear in New York before the week of August 17, 1970. However, on July 9, 1970, the Association issued a notice of hearing for August 10, 1970.

 In passing, it may be observed that the association's notice of hearing has the imprint: "NOTICE: The (arbitrators) have arranged their schedule and reserved the above date to meet the convenience of the Parties * * * In the event that unforeseen circumstances make it impossible to attend the hearing as scheduled, the Parties are to request a postponement no less than 48 hours before the time and date set for hearing." (Emphasis supplied).

 Promptly on receipt of the notice of the hearing, and on July 11th, the respondent wrote to the association that "[as] previously noted to you we cannot appear in New York City prior to the week of August 17, 1970." In a second letter dated July 25, 1970, the respondent reiterated

 
It is not a simple matter for persons for, or in behalf of, Chicago Carbon Steel Products to appear in New York City. The association graciously allowed Chicago Carbon Steel Products to make the necessary arrangements by offering the establishment of a hearing date: again, Chicago Carbon Steel Products complied with the Association. Mr. Keisman [petitioner's attorney] acknowledged and agreed to said date in his "unmailed" letter dated July 9, 1970.

 On July 28, the arbitrators telephoned the tribunal clerk and reiterated that the arbitration "shall proceed on August 10, 1970." Apparently, their personal convenience did not admit of the one week postponement which was being sought.

 Respondent promptly notified the association's Clerk:

 
Having been notified the hearing would be held on August 17, 1970, plans were made accordingly. Due to this advise [ sic ] from your office, plans for the week prior to the 17th were consummated subsequent to this advise [ sic ].
 
We cannot appear in New York on the 10th of August, 1970.

 Petitioner's attorney was away on vacation but when notified of the hearing and respondent's request for an additional week, he dictated a letter ...


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