New Videos Coming in 2024!

Exciting news awaits as we eagerly anticipate the release of new videos on State Civil Compulsory Arbitration! Stay tuned for insightful content that delves into the intricacies of this crucial aspect of Civil Arbitration. Our upcoming videos aim to provide comprehensive insights, keeping you informed and engaged. STAY TUNED! 


Why do I need to do this?

The first line of our professional creed says, “As a lawyer, I must strive to make our system of justice work fairly and efficiently.” Each of us has a responsibility that goes beyond our everyday practice as lawyers to serve Arizona’s legal system—to make it work better for all Arizonans. Assignment as a Rule 72 arbitrator is a direct and concrete way for every lawyer to contribute to this noble cause. Rule 72 cases involve real people, some facing perhaps their only interaction with our legal system. Whether you are a seasoned litigator or a transactional lawyer, you have been gifted with the education and skills necessary to help successfully resolve the case assigned to you, saving time and resources—and most importantly meting out justice in a fair and timely manner for those same people.

How did I get selected as the arbitrator?

Pursuant to Rule 73(b), Ariz. R. Civ. Pro., the court clerk or administrator selected you from a list of eligible arbitrators. Rule 73(c), Ariz. R. Civ. Pro., provides that the list of eligible arbitrators includes all county residents who have been active members of the State Bar of Arizona for at least 4 years. See your local superior court rules for more detail.

Rule 73(c), Ariz. R. Civ. Pro. says the list of eligible arbitrators may be designated “by their area of concentration, specialty, or expertise”. Why am I assigned to arbitrate a case in a totally different area of law than my practice?

The State Bar of Arizona does not provide any designations for attorneys. Please review your local superior court rules. For example, Gila County Local Rule 13(B) notes that “Selection [of arbitrator] shall be, to the extent possible, rotated among those eligible for appointment and within the expressed areas of expertise of the attorneys, if they have registered at least three areas of expertise with the clerk.”  (Emphasis added). Please contact your local clerk or administrator for more information. Also, please note that typically, compulsory arbitration cases are straightforward. Your general competence in issues related to compliance with court and evidentiary rules is likely sufficient.  

I do not practice as a litigator in any county superior court or I am unfamiliar with the practice area of the case, am I still required to act as an arbitrator?

Yes, unless you are excused by the issuing court.  Some counties have requirements regarding the length of time an attorney has practiced before they may serve as a court-appointed arbitrator.  Moreover, if you practice in multiple counties and are considered a “resident” of the issuing county, you might be subject to acting as an arbitrator in any of those counties.

What should I do now that I have the Notice of Appointment of Arbitrator?

First, review the names of the parties and attorneys involved to determine whether you have a conflict.  If there is a conflict, you must notify the issuing superior court in writing that you have a conflict and should not appear as the arbitrator.  Second, review A.R.S. § 12-133 and Ariz. R. Civ. P. 72 through 77 and the local rules of the noticing county to see what additional rules apply.  Finally, calendar the date by which the arbitration must be completed. If you are serving as an arbitrator in Maricopa or Pima County, see the links below which also provide helpful information:

It sounds like an arbitration is like a trial, correct?

Yes.  As an arbitrator you are acting as a judicial officer.  The parties should treat the arbitration as an evidentiary hearing and trial and comply with all deadlines set forth in the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure and any supplementary local rules.  For example, under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 74(c) the arbitrator has the power to administer oaths or affirmations to witnesses.  The Superior Court provides the interpreter in the language requested – private interpreters are not permitted; but the parties typically need to request the appointment of an interpreter.  The parties may, at their own cost, invite a court reporter to transcribe the hearing.  Any subpoenas related to the hearing must be issued by the Clerk of the Superior Court.   

I don’t litigate cases. Give me an overview of the arbitration process.

Arbitration is a mini trial, which presumably will last no more than two (2) hours.  Each party gets an opportunity to present evidence, after which, you are asked to make a ruling. Think back to your law school mock trials. Here is a brief outline:

  • Introduce yourself, tell the parties what to expect.
  • Ask the parties to introduce themselves.
  • Place all witnesses under oath.
  • Accept evidence for which there is a stipulation.
  • Decide if you wish to give each party a brief period (2-5 minutes) to make a short opening statement.
  • Ask plaintiff to present his/her case, including giving the defendant time to cross-examine the witness. Evaluate whether to accept any contested evidence plaintiff offers.
  • When the plaintiff rests, ask the defendant to present his/her case, including permitting the plaintiff to cross-examine any defense witnesses. Evaluate whether to accept any contested evidence defendant offers.
  • Ask the parties if they wish to make a short closing argument (about 5 minutes).
  • Take the matter under consideration and issue a ruling within the prescribed time period. 

What powers do I have as arbitrator?

As stated in Ariz. R. Civ. P. Rule 74(a), “The arbitrator has the power to administer oaths or affirmations to witnesses, determine the admissibility of evidence, and decide the law and the facts in an action.”

How much time should I reserve for the hearing?

The arbitration should be completed in about two (2) hours unless special circumstances apply. We recommend advising the parties you are setting the hearing for two hours and asking them to assert in writing why additional time should be awarded.

I do not maintain an office and do not want the parties at my home. Is there an alternative venue?

Arbitrations can be held at the State Bar of Arizona offices, if space is available.  You may check on availability and schedule a conference room by calling  (602) 340-7239; arbitrations may also be conducted  at a private office or other locations agreed upon by you and the parties.  You might also contact the issuing superior court’s court administration or clerk’s office and see if the courthouse has a room you may use for that purpose.  If the parties consent, arbitrations may be handled virtually as well.

How closely do I need to follow the Rules of Evidence during the hearing?

Be mindful you are acting as a judge in the arbitration hearing. Pursuant to Rule 75(c) and (d), the Arizona Rules of Evidence apply at the hearing. The rules also provide the following exceptions: “the arbitrator must admit into evidence the following documents without further proof, if relevant, and if listed in the prehearing statement:

  1. hospital bills, if on the hospital's official letterhead or billhead, dated, and itemized;
  2. bills of doctors and dentists, if dated and stating the date of each visit and the incurred charges;
  3. bills of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or physical therapists, if dated and stating the date and hours of service, and the incurred charges;
  4. bills for medicine, eyeglasses, prosthetic devices, medical belts, or similar items, if dated and itemized;
  5. property repair bills or estimates setting forth the costs or estimates for labor and material, if dated, itemized, and stating whether the property was, or is estimated to be, repaired in full or in part;
  6. a witness's deposition testimony, whether or not the witness is available to appear in person;
  7. an expert's sworn written statement, other than a doctor's medical report, whether or not the expert is available to appear in person, but only if:
    1. A. the statement is signed by the expert and summarizes the expert's qualifications; and
    2. B. the statement contains the expert's opinions, and the facts on which each opinion is based;
  8. in a personal injury action, a doctor's medical report, if a copy of the report was disclosed at least twenty (20) days before the hearing, unless the offering party shows good cause for the report's untimely disclosure;
  9. records of regularly conducted business activity qualified under Arizona Rule of Evidence 803(6); and
  10. a sworn witness statement, except from an expert witness, whether or not the witness is available to appear in person, if listed in the prehearing statement.

Before the hearing a party filed a motion addressed to the assigned judge, not to me. What do I do?

Look at the substance of the motion.  You may have received  a courtesy copy.  Arbitrators may not rule on any of the following motions: (1) motion to continue on the Dismissal Calendar or otherwise extend time allowed under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 28.1(d); (2) motions to consolidate actions under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 42; (3) motions to dismiss; (4) motions to withdraw as attorney of record under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 5.3; (5) motions for summary judgment that, if granted, would dispose of the entire case as to any party; and (6) motions for sanctions under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 68(g).  But you may rule on other motions, such as discovery motions

I received a Notice to Strike me – should I be offended?

No.  Each party has the right to seek an alternative arbitrator within ten days of your Notice of Appointment.  Parties do so for many reasons and sometimes no reason at all.

What is the language of the oath I am supposed to administer?

(Witness raises right hand) Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?  Or, (witness does not raise right hand) Do you affirm the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth under penalties of perjury?

Any advice on dealing with pro se litigants?

Although the Arizona Code of Judicial Conduct does not apply to civil arbitrators, some of the rules provide relevant insights:

  • Rule 1.2, Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary, requires judges to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
  • Rule 2.2, Impartiality and Fairness, requires judges to “uphold and apply the law, and . . . perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.”
  • Rule 2.6(A), Ensuring the Right to be Heard asserts, “A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be hard according to law.”
  • Rule 2.8(B), Decorum, Demeanor and Communication with Jurors, asserts, “A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.”
  • Rule 2.9, Ex Parte Communications, requires judges to avoid participating or considering ex parte communications and judges must avoid independently investigating a matter.

Taken together, this suggests that an arbitrator must balance being impartial, fair, and dignified, with providing litigants the opportunity to be heard. An arbitrator may not advocate on behalf of a pro per. But take some additional time to: (1) introduce yourself and briefly describe your role; (2) provide an overview of the process; (3) set expectations about when/how each party has the opportunity to be heard; (4) prevent the parties from speaking over each other and/or interrupting each other; and (5) remind the parties again that the arbitration hearing is essentially their day in court.

Arbitrators would be served by remembering the distinction between general legal information and legal advice. General legal information includes facts about law or procedure that apply to everyone. Legal advice is applying the law to a person’s specific facts. The arbitrator may provide the pro per litigant with general legal information but may not offer legal advice.


Can I help a pro se litigant?

No. Although you should tell both parties what to expect at the outset and although you may provide a pro se litigant general legal information, you may not advocate for the pro se litigant or offer him or her legal advice.

One party has indicated that a bankruptcy has been filed; what do I do now?

Have counsel or the party who filed for bankruptcy prepare and file a notice with the issuing court and include the bankruptcy case number.  Then, issue an order referring the case back to the assigned judge.

The plaintiff is seeking to enforce the terms of an alleged contract. What do I do?

See Ariz. R. Civ. P. Rule 72(b)(1)(A). Matters are subject to compulsory arbitration if no party affirmatively seeks relief other than a money judgment that is within the jurisdictional limit set by the local rules. Contact the assigning court if one party in the matter to which you were appointed seeks damages in excess of the jurisdictional limit or seeks non-monetary relief.

I’m confused – there is no pending action filed according to the materials the issuing county sent. How is there a controversy subject to A.R.S. § 12-133?

Under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 72(c) and A.R.S. § 12-133, a matter may be referred to arbitration at any time by an Agreement of Reference signed by all the parties or parties’ counsel.  Where arbitration is occurring by Agreement of Reference, the parties must define the issues for determination and may contain stipulations as to agreed facts, issues, or defenses. 

Is my decision final?

No.  Pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-133(H), “Any party to the arbitration proceeding may appeal from the arbitration award to the court in which the award is entered. . . “. The result of an appeal is that the case will be sent back to the trial court judge for a new trial.

Am I allowed to render my award orally?

No.  All arbitration awards must be in writing and filed with the issuing Superior Court.

When I render my decision, do I need to cite caselaw and/or provide an explanation?

You may, but you are not required to cite case law and/or provide an explanation of your decision.

I received a notice indicating that one of the parties appealed my award. What do I do now?

Nothing.  Any party is entitled to appeal your award; once you have written and filed the award, there should generally be nothing more for you to do.  If in doubt, call the Clerk of the issuing superior court.  The appealing party is entitled to a trial de novo on the law and facts.

I want to know what ultimately happened in the case I arbitrated. How can I find out?

Look up the case number on the Public Assess to Court Information website, found here. It is not appropriate for you to selectively reach out to either party while the matter in pending

If I make a mistake during the arbitration, can I be sued for malpractice?

Not successfully. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-133(K), “An arbitrator is personally immune from suit with respect to all acts done and actions taken in furtherance of the purposes of this section.”

Will I be paid for acting as an arbitrator?

Each county is different;  A.R.S. § 12-133 permits the county to pay up to $140/day if it chooses.  Some counties, such as Cochise and Yavapai counties, may offer CLE credit in lieu of a payment.  Typically, you must issue an award before you are eligible for any compensation. 

Although I am a member of the Arizona bar, I’m in the military and stationed outside of Arizona. Is there a way to be removed from the list of arbitrators?

If you are an active member of the State Bar of Arizona and the address you have provided the Bar is in an Arizona county, you will be included in the list of eligible arbitrators for that county. If you explain your situation to the court in a motion to excuse appointed arbitrator for good cause, you will likely prevail. The State Bar cannot remove you from the list of arbitrators or assist you in this effort. You would need to change your address on file with the State Bar to an address outside of Arizona.

Can I have myself removed from the list or eligible arbitrators?

If you are otherwise eligible, the State Bar of Arizona cannot remove your name from the list of eligible arbitrators, nor may you remove yourself merely because you would prefer not to serve in this capacity. However, pursuant to Ariz. R. Civ. P. Rule 73(c), “On written motion showing good cause, the presiding judge or that judge’s designee may excuse a lawyer from the list of arbitrators.”  You may file a motion with the local superior court in your county to have your name removed. But, unless special circumstances apply, consider why serving as an appointed arbitrator is part of your duty as an attorney. 

I’m worried about my safety when holding the arbitration. Any suggestions?

If you intend to conduct the hearing in person, (1) consider the location. If the local court has space and requires members of the public to first pass through a metal detector, it may be the best choice. Alternatively, select an office that has its own security; (2) communicate with the security team about when/where you are holding the hearing and potential issues; (3) request the parties arrive and depart at staggered times so they do not walk in or out together and so they are not sitting alone together in a waiting room; (4) hold the arbitration in a conference room that has windows so security has visibility into the area; (5) keep your phone next you. Although it should be silenced during the hearing, you will have it if you need to call for help; (6) be sure the hearing location is well-lit and spacious enough for everyone; and (7) consider holding the hearing virtually. 

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