Polish Supreme Court resolution
dated 8 November 1922
Case No. R 832/22
Summary by arbitraz.laszczuk.pl:
The petitioners applied to the Żółkiew County Court to set aside an arbitration award issued in June 1921 on the grounds that, in 1913, the Lwów County Court had appointed a guardian for the presiding arbitrator, I.O., finding him to be legally incompetent due to mental illness involving deep organic changes in the brain and progressive loss of mental faculties, a condition that was untreatable and fatal. The respondent alleged that notwithstanding the 1913 guardianship order, I.O. was in fact mentally fit at the time of the arbitration. The respondent relied on expert reports by non-psychiatrists included in the guardianship court file, but expert testimony by psychiatrists was not admitted because the respondent failed to pay the advance against their fees. Meanwhile, in November 1921, I.O. or his guardian filed a petition with the Lwów court to remove the guardianship. The Żółkiew court held that so long as I.O. was under guardianship, he was legally incapacitated and could not serve as an arbitrator, regardless of his actual mental state at the time.
On appeal, the Lwów Regional Court held that, unlike the case with state court judges, there was no law barring a person under guardianship from serving as an arbitrator, so long as the person was actually mentally fit at the time of appointment and issuance of the award. The county court should have admitted expert testimony on the presiding arbitrator’s actual mental state. This was a procedural error, and the regional court vacated the judgment below accordingly and remanded the case for reconsideration.
The petitioners sought review by the Supreme Court of Poland. The court held that the fitness of arbitrators was governed by the law on the judiciary, pursuant to which a person was legally incapacitated from serving as an arbitrator while under guardianship, regardless of the person’s actual mental state. To hold otherwise would introduce confusion and uncertainty into the institution of arbitration, which would be incompatible with the importance of the institution itself and socially harmful. The Supreme Court vacated the resolution of the regional court accordingly and remanded the case for reconsideration.
Excerpt from the text of the court’s ruling:
An arbitration agreement is governed by provisions of public law, not private law. Under the regulations concerning the judicial system, a person who is formally subject to guardianship due to mental illness may not become a judge; therefore, applying this rule by analogy, a person is not capable of serving as an arbitrator who at the time of appointment as an arbitrator was formally subject to guardianship due to mental illness, notwithstanding the claim that such person was already in fact mentally fit at that time or upon issuance of the award.