US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in arbitration, North Carolina voter ID cases
MarkThomas / Pixabay
US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in arbitration, North Carolina voter ID cases

The US Supreme Court Monday heard oral arguments in two pending cases, Morgan v. Sundance, Inc. and Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.

In Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., the court must consider whether a requirement to prove prejudice when one party subject to an arbitration clause argues another party waived arbitration violates the court’s “equal treatment” principle. In this case, Sundance moved to compel arbitration pursuant to an employment contract after litigating a case alleging failure to pay Morgan overtime. Morgan argued that Sundance waived its right to arbitration. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit disagreed and held that, because Morgan was not prejudiced by the delay in arbitration, Sundance did not waive its right to arbitration.

During oral arguments, Morgan argued that it was improper to require proof of prejudice to block the motion to compel arbitration because prejudice is not required to waive other contractual rights. Morgan relied on the court’s “equal treatment” principle, which stated that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires arbitration clauses to be on equal footing with other contractual terms.

Many federal courts currently require proof of prejudice under the FAA before applying an arbitration-specific waiver defense, so the court’s decision could significantly alter federal jurisprudence.

In Berger v. North Carolina State Conference for the NAACP, the court is considering whether two Republican North Carolina legislators have a right to intervene to defend the constitutionality of a state voter ID law where the attorney general of North Carolina is already representing the State’s interests.

The North Carolina State Conference for the NAACP sued the state over SB 824, the voter ID law at issue, which requires photo identification to vote. President Pro Tempore of the state Senate Phil Berger and Speaker of the state House Tim Moore attempted to intervene in the litigation. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ultimately denied intervention on the grounds that the state Attorney General was already representing the state’s interest in the litigation. 

The parties presented arguments over whether or not the executive branch of North Carolina, as represented by the attorney general, has a similar or identical interest in defending the law as the legislative branch, as represented by Berger and Moore, and would be improper under Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.