Television Court Judges Entitled to Arbitral Immunity
Description Ed Koch, who served as judge on a television court show, was entitled to absolute immunity from suit by a party to a dispute resolved on the program. As an arbitrator, Koch was entitled to immunity from suit, as are the producers of the program, for statements he made on the air about the parties.
Topic Alternate Dispute Resolution
Key Words Arbitration; Immunity; Television Court
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Idris Kabia sued his son, Ahmed Kabia, for $2,000 for alleged failure to return property. The television program "The People's Court" offered the parties the chance to resolve the dispute before "judge" Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York, who presided over the program. Parties sign an arbitration agreement when they appear on the program. During the program, Koch referred to Idris Kabia as a kidnapper. Kabia then sued Koch for defamation. Koch moved for summary judgment.
Decision Summary judgment granted to Koch. Submission of the case to the television court qualified as arbitration. Arbitration is largely independent of the court system. Koch served as arbitrator of the matter. The parties had agreed to appear on national television. As an arbitrator, under the doctrine of arbitral immunity, Koch was entitled to absolute arbitral immunity for all acts performed within his capacity to resolve the matter; this includes immunity from a defamation action for statements he made about Kabia; even if the claim is slander per se. Further, the arbitration association is similarly immune from liability for the actions of arbitrators who enjoy judicial immunity from civil liability.
Citation Kabia v. Koch, 2000 WL 1341941 (No. SCNY 2386/99, City Civ. Ct., N.Y., 2000)

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