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U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Breyer Considers ‘Joe Bananas’ Influence in Arbitration Contracts

Posted Apr 27, 2010 8:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Justice Stephen G. Breyer appeared to be one of the few justices Monday to side with an employee who wants his challenge to an arbitration agreement to be decided by a court.

The employer, the Nevada branch of Rent-A-Center, says its arbitration agreement requires questions about unconscionability to be decided by the arbitrator rather than a judge. According to the National Law Journal, several justices appeared to agree.

“The U.S. Supreme Court's pro-arbitration trend appears intact after oral arguments Monday,” the NLJ writes. “During the past two decades, the high court has generally ruled to strengthen the enforceability of arbitration agreements. On Monday, few justices appeared eager to change that trend, though several seemed to believe that courts should play some role in checking especially egregious agreements.”

Breyer seemed sympathetic to the employee, Roberto Jackson, an account manager who claims he was not promoted because he is African-American, the story says.

Throughout the argument, Breyer offered variations of a hypothetical involving a Mafioso, "Joe Bananas," who influenced a party to sign an arbitration agreement by various means, including “alcohol and lies,” Law.com reports.

The case is Rent-A-Center, West v. Jackson.

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