Reopening Hearing Rooms: Back to the Future?

Posted on: Tue, 08/10/2021

By: Jeffrey T. Zaino, Esq., Vice President, AAA® Commercial Division
      Mansi Karol, Esq., Director of ADR Services, AAA

In-person arbitrations and mediations are back at the AAA-ICDR®

Read on for some insights and advice gleaned from in-person arbitrations and mediations at the AAA-ICDR office in New York City. 

  • Early booking of hearing rooms is necessary. Rooms are booking into 2022. One of the reasons fueling this is the phenomenon of post-pandemic multiple-room bookings for normal-size cases. Some parties want a change of room and more space when possible.
  • Communication about virus symptoms is key. All visitors are required to complete a COVID-19 Daily Symptom Check each day of their visit before arriving at the AAA facility. Counsel and arbitrators/mediators—as well as parties—should be in touch regarding if anyone is experiencing virus symptoms. Case in point: checking in at the lobby of a recent arbitration, two attorneys on the same side reported feeling ill. Because there was a health facility in the basement, they got a rapid test and were pronounced fine to go; likely this will not be the typical fortuitous scenario.  
  • Review masking and vaccination requirements. At this writing, masking no longer is mandatory in the NYC AAA building lobbies. Requirements may vary by state. Vaccination status is on the honor system; non-vaccinated people are required to wear masks when they are unable to social distance.
  • Hearing options remain. Room capacity is back to pre-COVID status, as is the physical layout. However, if parties prefer hybrid hearings, five rooms equipped with voice-activated cameras allow for this. 
  • Your arbitrator may not wish to be in the room. Some arbitrators are not comfortable with appearing in person without the requirement of proof of vaccination and therefore serve remotely. 

The COVID-19 Delta variant, however, has injected a note of uncertainty into many aspects of reentering life as we knew it; it could be a case of the more things change, the more they remain the same.


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