Thursday, April 19, 2018

Appeal of Denial of Motion to Disqualify a Court Appointed Neutral Quashed

In the case of Haviland v. Kline & Specter, No. 1791 EDA 2017 (Pa. Super. March 22, 2018 Murray, J., McLaughlin, J., and Stevens, J.) (Op. by Murray, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the rules of pertaining to permissible appeals from the trial court. In this particular case, the question was whether a trial court’s denial of a motion to disqualify a court appointed neutral arbitrator was appealable.   The court ruled that it was not and, therefore, he appeal was quashed.  

This matter arose out of a dispute between law firms over fees.   In the trial court proceedings, the court appointed a neutral arbitrator to hear the matter.   One of the parties involved filed a motion to disqualify that arbitrator.   After the trial court denied the motion to disqualify the neutral arbitrator, the case was appealed.  

A main portion of this court’s Opinion dealt with whether the trial court’s denial of the motion to disqualify the arbitrator was appealable as a non-final order.   In this regard, the Superior Court stated that it was unable to locate any case directly on point. However, the court concluded that the case law addressing the interlocutory nature of pre-trial recusals of trial court judges to be persuasive and instructive.  

The court held that “an order denying a motion seeking the recusal or disqualification of an arbitrator, as with an order denying the recusal of a trial judge, is not a final order or an interlocutory order appealable as of right or as a collateral order.  

Given that the Superior Court found that the trial court’s Order denying a party’s motion to disqualify an arbitrator is not a final order or an interlocutory order appealable as of right or as a collateral order, the Superior Court quashed this appeal as it, therefore, did not have jurisdiction to the merits of the issue presented. 

Anyone wishing to read this case may click this LINK.

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