U.S. Supreme Court
The Case of Judge Alex and the Preston-Change-O Arbitration Contract
Posted Jan 14, 2008 8:41 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The case of the TV judge billed as "tall, dark and judgmental" heads to the U.S. Supreme Court today for a ruling on whether his dispute with a former manager should go to a private arbitrator.
“Judge Alex” as Alex Ferrer is known, contends California law requires initial issues in the case to be heard by a state labor commissioner, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). Ferrer’s former manager, Arnold Preston, contends a private arbitrator should hear the dispute, as called for in his contract with Ferrer.
The Wall Street Journal story points out the irony of a TV judge’s case being heard by a court that refuses to allow TV cameras to record its oral arguments. Ferrer told the newspaper he thinks the court should allow TV cameras as a matter of policy, although no one would watch. “For average people, they'd rather watch paint dry," he said.
Ferrer claims the commissions contract is invalid since Preston was not a licensed manager at the time it was signed. The California Court of Appeal held the legality of the contract should be decided by the labor commissioner, according to Preston’s cert petition (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog).
Preston argues the Federal Arbitration Act pre-empts state law and requires an arbitrator to decide the gateway issues. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (PDF) supports Preston, a former criminal defense lawyer who now produces a gospel talent show.
Cornell Law School has summarized the issues in the case, Preston v. Ferrer.