Musings on Christian Arbitration

Having done two arbitrations in the last month, I’m reflecting on some troubling aspects of Christian arbitration.

How can a witness be cross-examined to cast doubt on credibility, without violating  biblical commands to love one another? Should a Christian arbitrator permit cross-exam that dredges up dark incidents in the witness’s past, for the sole purpose of attacking the witness’s credibility? When does it turn into gossip, or slander? Is it kind? Is there another way for a lawyer to raise doubt about credibility besides by humiliation and innuendo? This is obviously an issue for any Christian litigator in court, but Christian arbitration is supposed to be conducted according to biblical standards. So how different should cross-exam be, when it’s in a Christian setting?

Should a party be permitted to question the motive of the other party? In one case, the party’s brief expounded on the theory that the other side was motivated by greed. In Christian mediation, mediators often recommend a ground rule of, “No assuming motives”—that neither party is permitted to speculate on what motivated the other party to do something, since such speculation is usually negative and sometimes worse than the truth.  If parties shouldn’t speculate on motives in mediation, should they in arbitration? Is it helpful for the arbitrator to be supplied with a possible motive for the other side’s [unacceptable] behavior, or is it simply unkind? Should the arbitrator impose a rule of “No assuming motives” in arbitration, or is that excessive?

Must each provision in an arbitration award be legally enforceable? Can the arbitrator include a recommendation that a party apologize to the other, for example?

Christian arbitration literally fulfills I Corinthians 6:5 (that there are indeed people within the church “wise enough to judge”) so it’s important to get it right.

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