Following Davis’s filing of a federal lawsuit alleging state malpractice and breach of contract claims, as well as federal Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights Act claims, the Court ordered the action be stayed pending arbitration, and the suit was “administratively dismissed without prejudice subject to full reinstatement upon the completion of the required arbitration” of the disputes arising from Fenton’s representation of Davis.
Davis was awarded damages for malpractice, but the arbitration panel denied her other claims. Fenton then sued Davis in state court, seeking to have the arbitration award vacated or at least reduced. Davis moved to reinstate her federal suit, and Fenton failed to attend the hearing, resulting in default and confirmation of the award. Fenton sought to vacate the default judgment and remand the case to state court “on the ground that the district court lacked jurisdiction because he (Fenton) had filed his state lawsuit challenging the arbitration award prior to Davis’s having moved the district court to re-open the case.”
The District Court refused, reminding the parties that “I was the one that enforced the defendants’ request for arbitration and I sent the case for arbitration. So it would seem to me, because I retained jurisdiction, that any request to vacate the arbitration award that the plaintiff won should have come to this Court and not to some [state court] judge.” Fenton appealed the ruling to the Seventh Circuit, which agreed with the trial court: “the judge had jurisdiction over the case at the time it was filed, as it raised questions of federal law, and the judge’s order staying the case (or equivalently, administratively dismissing it subject to reinstatement at the conclusion of arbitration) retained jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitral award.” , et al., Nos. 16-2121, 16-2165 (USCA 7th Cir. May 26, 2017).