Arbitrator sued in Houston for allegedly presuming guilt.
One of National Arbitration Forum’s (NAF) most prolific arbitrators, The Honorable Carolyn Marks Johnson, has been sued in Houston for alleged judicial misconduct.
Judge Johnson has been an active domain dispute arbitrator with NAF. A 2001 analysis of UDRP cases (pdf) showed that, not only was she handed a disproportionate number of complaints by NAF, but she also found in favor of the complainant 97.2% of the time. Across the universe of cases at NAF, only 82.9% were found in favor of complainants at the time.
She has also decided some particularly egregious cases. She found in favor of the complainant for Freebie.com, even though the respondent owned a company called Freebie, Inc. that used the web site for a “points site” for Blockbuster Video. That decision found its way to court, where two separate courts found that the UDRP was flat out wrong. The first court decided that the UDRP was “unsupported by the evidence” and should be reversed. An appeals court agreed.
She was also the arbitrator on the recent MothersMilk.com case. She was the second arbitrator to hear what amounts to basically the same case. The first arbitrator ruled in favor of the respondent; Johnson found in favor of the complainant.
So what is she alleged to have done to find herself on the receiving end of a lawsuit? While serving as a judge in a Driving While Intoxicated case, she undertook what the defendant alleges was a “bizarre and illegal course of conduct”.
Just an upset defendant? It doesn’t appear that way. The defendant alleges that, while the jury was deliberating, Johnson opined about the need to punish the defendant and the need for the prosecutor and defendant to work out an agreement about the punishment that would be imposed on the defendant as soon as the jury reached a verdict. Johnson then allegedly ordered the defendant to take a drug test, and Johnson advised that, if found positive for illegal drugs, she would tell the jury as it was deliberating.
Keep in mind this all allegedly took place while the jury was deliberating. It then came back with its verdict: NOT guilty.
The suit alleges that the defendant was then detained against her will in order to take the drug test anyway, and makes several other claims. By the way, the drug test came back negative, too.
That one of its arbitrators is on the receiving end of such a lawsuit doesn’t look good for National Arbitration Forum, given that it was recently sued for bias by the Attorney General of Minnesota. NAF settled the case and exited the consumer arbitration business.
It’s up to the court to decide Judge Johnson’s case. After all, you’re innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps Johnson needs to apply that elusive right in both the court room and in domain arbitration cases.