This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


In Re the Marriage of:
Dennis J. Miller, petitioner,


Dawn Ramsland Miller,


Filed October 19, 1999
Short, Judge


Washington County District Court
File No. F5973710


Phillip Gainsley, Suite 527, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1810 (for appellant)

Mark J. Vierling, Eckberg, Lammers, Briggs, Wolff & Vierling, P.L.L.P., 1835 Northwestern Avenue, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Mulally, Judge[*].

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

SHORT, Judge

The parties stipulated that issues remaining in their marital dissolution should be decided by mediation or binding arbitration. The arbitrator submitted his award directly to the trial court, which adopted the award and entered judgment. Dennis Miller moved to vacate judgment in the trial court, but appealed before the trial court ruled. Miller now argues the judgment should be vacated because the arbitrator: (1) exceeded his powers by submitting the award directly to the trial court; and (2) demonstrated evident partiality by relying heavily on proposed findings. We affirm.


This court uses an extremely narrow standard of review when considering the merits of an arbitration award, but we employ less deference when evaluating the statutory grounds for vacation. Minn. Stat. § 572.19 (1998); State, Office of the State Auditor v. Minnesota Ass'n of Prof'l Employees, 504 N.W.2d 751, 754-55 (Minn. 1993). When a party seeks to vacate an award on the ground that the arbitrator exceeded the scope of the arbitration agreement, our review is de novo. State v. Berthiaume, 259 N.W.2d 904, 909 (Minn. 1977). The party seeking to vacate an award has the burden of proof, and every reasonable presumption is exercised in favor of the finality and validity of the award. National Indem. Co. v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 348 N.W.2d 748, 750 (Minn. 1984).

Miller argues the arbitrator exceeded his authority by forwarding the award directly to the trial court instead of going through the parties’ attorneys. We look to the language of the arbitration agreement for guidance. Berthiaume, 259 N.W.2d at 909. The order adopting the parties’ stipulation for binding arbitration states:

Mr. Haugh is authorized to, and he shall, conduct mediation between the parties on all issues remaining. Mr. Haugh is authorized and empowered to shift the focus from mediation to binding arbitration on any issue at any time that he is of the opinion that the parties are deadlocked on that issue. Mr. William Haugh has the authority and right to control and direct the participation of the parties with a view towards limiting expenditures of resources of the parties to that which is necessary in providing for a timely result.

* * * *

Upon completion of all mediation and arbitration on all issues conducted before Mr. William Haugh, he shall notify the Court and the parties’ attorneys of the resolution of such issues either by way of mediation or binding arbitration and counsel shall prepare and submit to the court a final Judgment and Decree incorporating all such terms.

Both sides were represented by counsel, presented evidence to the arbitrator, and submitted proposed findings and conclusions to the arbitrator. The fact that the arbitrator notified the trial court and parties of the resolution by submitting findings, conclusions, and a judgment and decree does not affect the outcome of the agreed-upon binding arbitration or demonstrate the arbitrator clearly exceeded his powers.

Miller also argues the arbitrator demonstrated evident partiality by adopting his former spouse’s findings of fact verbatim. See Minn. Stat. § 572.19, subd. 1(2) (1998) (requiring vacation of arbitration award when there is "evident partiality by an arbitrator appointed as a neutral * * * or misconduct prejudicing the rights of any party"). But the wholesale adoption of a party’s proposed findings and conclusions of law is not reversible per se. Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). Here, the arbitrator deleted or altered some of the former spouse’s requested findings on arrearages, child support, and attorney fees. In addition, both parties fully participated in all arbitration proceedings. Moreover, there was no evidence that the arbitration award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means, or that the arbitrator had undisclosed contacts with either party. Under these circumstances, Miller has failed to establish facts that create a reasonable impression of partiality.


[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.