Brown v. Brown-Thill, No. 13-1708 (8th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Richard L. Brown and Susan Brown-Thill, co-trustees of the EDB Trust, signed an Arbitration Agreement for resolving a broad range of disputes. These consolidated appeals concern two awards following an initial arbitration. The March 14 award authorized distributions from family-owned limited partnerships to family trusts. The December 12 award declared invalid Brown's attempt to resign as co-trustee and name his successor, and removed Brown as co-trustee, applying the Uniform Trust Code's standards for the statutory removal of a trustee as adopted in Missouri, the situs of the controversy, and Florida, the situs of the EDB Trust. The district court denied Brown's attempt to vacate both awards and Brown-Thill's request for a contractual award of attorneys' fees in both suits. The court concluded that the March 14 award cannot be vacated on the ground of procedural irregularities and the arbitrator's procedural errors did not violate the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(2), (3), and (4). In regards to the December 12 award, the district court did not err in interpreting the EDB Trust Agreement; the arbitrator's interpretation of the Trust Agreement's removal provision is not a ground for vacating the award; the court concluded that Brown-Thill properly submitted the removal issue under the Arbitration Agreement, the arbitrator then had power to construe and apply the Trust Agreement's removal provision and to make findings regarding the statutory standards for removal which Brown-Thill could present in a judicial proceeding, but the arbitrator exceeded his powers by exercising the exclusively judicial function of removing Brown on statutory standards; however, this decision is of no practical importance because of Brown's unconditional resignation as co-trustee; and the court rejected Brown's FAA challenge. Finally, the court concluded that Brown-Thill was not entitled to recover attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed except with a modification and denied Brown's motion to take judicial notice.