“Judicial Economy Was Not . . A Proper Basis For Delaying Arbitration.”
What’s a judge to do when confronted with the possibility of compelling thousands of individual grievances to arbitration, versus staying the arbitration of arbitral issues, while one case is tried? Here, the trial judge expediently stayed the individual arbitrations, and got reversed by the Court of Appeal because the part of CCP section 1281.2 upon which the trial judge relied was inapplicable. Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, B254982 (2/5 Feb. 17, 2015) (Mosk, Kriegler, Goodman) (published).
The scenario was that the County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department sought to compel individual arbitrations of numerous grievances for wage issues by union employees. The trial court refused to compel the arbitrations, ruling that section 1281.2(c) gave it discretion to stay the arbitration of arbitral issues while it resolved issues between the parties that were not subject to arbitration.
Section 1281.2(c) gives the trial court the discretion to delay its order to arbitrate arbitrable claims if it first determines that adjudication of the nonarbitrable claims in court might make arbitration unnecessary. That’s the section the trial court relied upon to stay arbitration of thousands of individual claims.
The problem here is that all the Unions’ grievances, which the County sought to arbitrate, were the same as the claims raised in a cross-complaint brought by the Unions. Collective bargaining agreements or memoranda of understanding required arbitration of individual claims, without provision for class-wide arbitration. Because no non-arbitrable claims had been raised that could be tried first, i.e., all the claims were the same and arbitrable – there was no basis for staying the individual arbitrations. As for judicial economy, “California courts have no inherent authority to deny arbitration simply because it would be more efficient to litigate the claims in court.” Acquire II, Ltd. v. Colton Real Estate Group, 213 Cal.App.4th 959, 980 (2013).