Rent-A-Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson, No. 09–497.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation130 S.Ct. 2772,561 U.S. 63,177 L.Ed.2d 403
PartiesRENT–A–CENTER, WEST, INC., Petitioner, v. Antonio JACKSON.
Docket NumberNo. 09–497.
Decision Date21 June 2010

561 U.S. 63
130 S.Ct.
2772
177 L.Ed.2d 403

RENT–A–CENTER, WEST, INC., Petitioner,
v.
Antonio JACKSON.

No. 09–497.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 26, 2010.
Decided June 21, 2010.


130 S.Ct. 2775

Robert F. Friedman, Dallas, TX, for Petitioner.

Ian E. Silverberg, Reno, NV, for Respondent.

Michael T. Garone, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C., Portland, OR, Ronald D. DeMoss, Andrew Trusevich, Mary Harokopus, Plano, TX, Robert F. Friedman, Edward F. Berbarie, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Dallas, TX, Henry D. Lederman, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Walnut Creek, CA, Carter G. Phillips, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Ian E. Silverberg, Del Hardy, Hardy & Associates, Reno, NV, Scott L. Nelson, Deepak Gupta Public Citizen Litigation Group, Washington, D.C., F. Paul Bland, Jr., Matthew Wessler, Amy Radon, Melanie Hirsch, Public Justice, P.C., Washington, D.C., Arthur H. Bryant, Leslie A. Bailey, Leslie N. Brueckner, Public Justice, P.C., Oakland, CA, for Respondent.

Opinion

Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

561 U.S. 65

We consider whether, under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA or Act), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1–16, a district court may decide a claim that an arbitration agreement is unconscionable, where the agreement explicitly assigns that decision to the arbitrator.

I

On February 1, 2007, the respondent here, Antonio Jackson, filed an employment-discrimination suit under Rev. Stat. § 1977, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, against his former employer in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. The defendant and petitioner here, Rent–A–Center, West, Inc., filed a motion under the FAA to dismiss or stay the proceedings, 9 U.S.C. § 3, and to compel arbitration, § 4. Rent–A–Center argued that the Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (Agreement), which Jackson signed on February 24, 2003 as a condition of his employment there, precluded Jackson from pursuing his claims in court. The Agreement provided for arbitration of all “past, present or future” disputes arising out of Jackson's employment with Rent–A–Center, including “claims for discrimination” and

561 U.S. 66

“claims for violation of any federal ... law.” App. 29–30. It also provided that “[t]he Arbitrator, and not any federal, state, or local court or agency, shall have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, enforceability or formation of this Agreement including, but not limited to any claim that all or any part of this Agreement is void or voidable.” Id., at 34.

Jackson opposed the motion on the ground that “the arbitration agreement in question is clearly unenforceable in that it is unconscionable” under Nevada law. Id., at 40. Rent–A–Center responded that Jackson's unconscionability claim was not properly before the court because Jackson had expressly agreed that the arbitrator would have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute about the enforceability of the Agreement. It also disputed the merits of Jackson's unconscionability claims.

The District Court granted Rent–A–Center's motion to dismiss the proceedings and to compel arbitration. The court found that the Agreement “ ‘ “clearly and unmistakenly [sic] ” ’ ” gives the arbitrator exclusive authority to decide whether the Agreement is enforceable, App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a. (quoting Howsam v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 537 U.S. 79, 83, 123 S.Ct. 588, 154 L.Ed.2d 491 (2002)), and, because Jackson challenged the validity of the Agreement as a whole, the issue was for

130 S.Ct. 2776

the arbitrator, App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a (citing Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v. Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 444–445, 126 S.Ct. 1204, 163 L.Ed.2d 1038 (2006)). The court noted that even if it were to examine the merits of Jackson's unconscionability claims, it would have rejected the claim that the agreement to split arbitration fees was substantively unconscionable under Nevada law. It did not address Jackson's procedural or other substantive unconscionability arguments.

Without oral argument, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded. 581 F.3d 912 (2009). The court reversed on the question of who (the court or arbitrator) had

561 U.S. 67

the authority to decide whether the Agreement is enforceable. It noted that “Jackson does not dispute that the language of the Agreement clearly assigns the arbitrability determination to the arbitrator,” but held that where “a party challenges an arbitration agreement as unconscionable, and thus asserts that he could not meaningfully assent to the agreement, the threshold question of unconscionability is for the court.” Id., at 917. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court's alternative conclusion that the fee-sharing provision was not substantively unconscionable and remanded for consideration of Jackson's other unconscionability arguments. Id., at 919–920, and n. 3. Judge Hall dissented on the ground that “the question of the arbitration agreement's validity should have gone to the arbitrator, as the parties ‘clearly and unmistakably provide[d]’ in their agreement.” Id., at 921.

We granted certiorari, 558 U.S. 1142, 130 S.Ct. 1133, 175 L.Ed.2d 941 (2010).

II

A

The FAA reflects the fundamental principle that arbitration is a matter of contract. Section 2, the “primary substantive provision of the Act,” Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983), provides:

“A written provision in ... a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract ... shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2.

The FAA thereby places arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts, Buckeye, supra, at 443, 126 S.Ct. 1204, and requires courts to enforce them according to their terms, Volt Information Sciences, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Leland

561 U.S. 68

Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 478, 109 S.Ct. 1248, 103 L.Ed.2d 488 (1989). Like other contracts, however, they may be invalidated by “generally applicable contract defenses, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability.” Doctor's Associates, Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 687, 116 S.Ct. 1652, 134 L.Ed.2d 902 (1996).

The Act also establishes procedures by which federal courts implement § 2's substantive rule. Under § 3, a party may apply to a federal court for a stay of the trial of an action “upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration.” Under § 4, a party “aggrieved” by the failure of another party “to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration” may petition a federal court “for an order directing that such arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement.” The court “shall” order arbitration “upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for arbitration or the failure to comply therewith is not in issue.” Ibid.

130 S.Ct. 2777

The Agreement here contains multiple “written provision[s]” to “settle by arbitration a controversy,” § 2. Two are relevant to our discussion. First, the section titled “Claims Covered By The Agreement” provides for arbitration of all “past, present or future” disputes arising out of Jackson's employment with Rent–A–Center. App. 29. Second, the section titled “Arbitration Procedures” provides that “[t]he Arbitrator ... shall have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the ... enforceability ... of this Agreement including, but not limited to any claim that all or any part of this Agreement is void or voidable.” Id., at 32, 34. The current “controversy” between the parties is whether the Agreement is unconscionable. It is the second provision, which delegates resolution of that controversy to the arbitrator, that Rent–A–Center seeks to enforce. Adopting the terminology used by the parties, we will refer to it as the delegation provision.

The delegation provision is an agreement to arbitrate threshold issues concerning the arbitration agreement. We have recognized that parties can agree to arbitrate “gateway

561 U.S. 69

” questions of “arbitrability,” such as whether the parties have agreed to arbitrate or whether their agreement covers a particular controversy. See, e.g., Howsam, 537 U.S., at 83–85, 123 S.Ct. 588; Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle, 539 U.S. 444, 452, 123 S.Ct. 2402, 156 L.Ed.2d 414 (2003) (plurality opinion). This line of cases merely reflects the principle that arbitration is a matter of contract.1 SEE

561 U.S. 70

FIrst options of ChicaGO, inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.s. 938, 943, 115 S.Ct. 1920, 131 L.Ed.2d 985 (1995). An agreement to arbitrate a gateway issue is simply an...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1814 practice notes
  • Houston Ref., L.P. v. United Steel, No. 13–20384.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 25, 2014
    ...to that fact in advance if the parties did not intend the arbitrator to decide those questions. In Rent–A–Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 68–70, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010), the Supreme Court considered a delegation clause in an arbitration agreement, which submitted to......
  • Sakyi v. Estée Lauder Cos., Civil Action No. 17–1863 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 25, 2018
    ...turn.A. The Plaintiff Must Arbitrate Her Claims against BBI"[A]rbitration is a matter of contract." Rent–A–Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson , 561 U.S. 63, 69, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010). Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that "the first task of a court asked to compel arbitration ......
  • Chambers v. Groome Transp. of Ala., Case No. 3:14–CV–237–WKW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • August 26, 2014
    ...a gateway question.” Given v. M & T Bank Corp., 674 F.3d 1252, 1255 (11th Cir.2012) (quoting Rent–A–Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 69 n. 1, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010)). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained, “this rule makes imminent sense, for in the absence of ‘cl......
  • Hebei Hengbo New Materials Tech. Co. v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 18-CV-00468-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • September 26, 2018
    ...referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration.’ " 344 F.Supp.3d 1118 Rent–A–Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson , 561 U.S. 63, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010) (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 3 ). If all claims in litigation are subject to a valid arbitration agreement, th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1845 cases
  • Houston Ref., L.P. v. United Steel, No. 13–20384.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 25, 2014
    ...to that fact in advance if the parties did not intend the arbitrator to decide those questions. In Rent–A–Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 68–70, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010), the Supreme Court considered a delegation clause in an arbitration agreement, which submitted to......
  • Sakyi v. Estée Lauder Cos., Civil Action No. 17–1863 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 25, 2018
    ...turn.A. The Plaintiff Must Arbitrate Her Claims against BBI"[A]rbitration is a matter of contract." Rent–A–Center, W., Inc. v. Jackson , 561 U.S. 63, 69, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010). Thus, the Supreme Court has directed that "the first task of a court asked to compel arbitration ......
  • Chambers v. Groome Transp. of Ala., Case No. 3:14–CV–237–WKW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • August 26, 2014
    ...a gateway question.” Given v. M & T Bank Corp., 674 F.3d 1252, 1255 (11th Cir.2012) (quoting Rent–A–Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63, 69 n. 1, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010)). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained, “this rule makes imminent sense, for in the absence of ‘cl......
  • Hebei Hengbo New Materials Tech. Co. v. Apple, Inc., Case No. 18-CV-00468-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • September 26, 2018
    ...referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration.’ " 344 F.Supp.3d 1118 Rent–A–Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson , 561 U.S. 63, 130 S.Ct. 2772, 177 L.Ed.2d 403 (2010) (quoting 9 U.S.C. § 3 ). If all claims in litigation are subject to a valid arbitration agreement, th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 firm's commentaries

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT