No immediate right in D.C. to appeal an order compelling arbitration and staying the lawsuit

In Stuart v. Walker , No. 09-CV-900 (D.C. Oct. 28, 2010), the Court held that a trial court's order granting a motion to compel fee arbitration and to stay the case, was not a final judgment and therefore, was not immediately appealable.

In this case, the plaintiff, who is an attorney, brought suit to recover attorney's fees from her former client. The former client then moved to compel fee arbitration under D.C. Bar Rule XIII, which mandates binding arbitration of all attorney-client fee disputes in D.C. The trial court granted the motion and stayed the case pending an arbitral award. The attorney than appealed.

The Court held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal as it was taken from a non-final order, and the Court's jurisdiction is limited to review of final orders of the Superior court.

The Court reasoned that while an order compelling arbitration that dismissed the action would be an appealable final order, in this case there was no final appealable order since the action was only stayed.

The Court also held that an amendment to D.C. Code sec. 16-4427(a) that purported to make orders granting a motion to compel arbitration immediately appealable was invalid. That was because the D.C. Council does not have authority to pass laws enlarging the Court of Appeals' jurisdiction.