1. Judgments: Jurisdiction.
A jurisdictional issue that does not involve a factual
dispute presents a question of law.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Contracts. If
arbitration arises from a contract involving interstate
commerce, it is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Contracts: Insurance:
Crops. The arbitration of disputes arising under
federally reinsured crop insurance contracts plainly involves
interstate commerce and, as such, is governed exclusively by
the Federal Arbitration Act.
Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. Before reaching the
legal issues presented for review, it is the duty of an
appellate court to determine whether it has jurisdiction over
the matter before it. This is so even where neither party has
raised the issue.
Federal Acts: Jurisdiction: Time. To determine
whether a time limit in a federal statute is a jurisdictional
requirement, an appellate court inquires whether Congress has
"clearly stated" that the rule is jurisdictional;
absent such a clear statement, courts should treat the
restriction as nonjurisdictional in character.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Jurisdiction:
Notice: Limitations of Actions: Appeal and Error.
The clear language of 9 U.S.C. § 9 (2012) indicates
Congress intended the statutory time limits on serving notice
of an application for judicial review under the Federal
Arbitration Act to be jurisdictional.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Limitations of Actions:
Appeal and Error. Under the Federal Arbitration Act,
once the arbitrator has heard a case and entered an award,
Congress has placed strict limitations on judicial review of
the arbitration award by placing [297 Neb. 799] temporal
limits on when a court is authorized to review an award and
by limiting the grounds upon which a court is authorized to
vacate or modify an award. In that regard, streamlined
judicial review of an arbitrator's award under the
Federal Arbitration Act is similar to a restricted appellate
Jurisdiction: Limitations of Actions: Appeal and
Error. Statutory time limits on appellate review are
almost always considered jurisdictional in nature, both
historically and presently, and strict compliance with such
time limits is necessary.
Jurisdiction: Limitations of Actions: Dismissal and
Nonsuit: Appeal and Error. The statutory time limits
on notices of appeal are more than simple claim-processing
rules, and when an appeal has not been prosecuted in the
manner directed, within the time limited by the acts of
Congress, it must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Notice: Time: Appeal and
Error. Similar to a notice of appeal, the Federal
Arbitration Act's requirement that those seeking
expedited judicial review must serve notice of their
application in a certain manner and within a specified
timeframe is more than a simple claim-processing rule; it is
the statutory procedure that defines which forum has
authority over the dispute and delineates the classes of
cases the court may review.
Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Jurisdiction:
Motions to Vacate: Notice: Time. The notice
requirement under 9 U.S.C. § 12 (2012) is jurisdictional
in nature, and a party's failure to serve notice of an
application for judicial vacatur in the manner directed and
within the time limits required has jurisdictional
Judgments: Jurisdiction. When a court lacks
jurisdiction and nonetheless enters an order, such order is
Judgments: Final Orders: Jurisdiction: Appeal and
Error. A void order is a nullity which cannot
constitute a judgment or final order that confers appellate
jurisdiction on a court.
from the District Court for Holt County: Mark D. Kozisek,
Judge. Vacated and dismissed.
M. Locher and Amy Locher, of Locher, Pavelka. Dostal, Braddy
& Hammes, L.L.C., and Mitch D. Carthel, of Mullin, Hoard
& Brown, L.L.P., for appellant.
A. Minahan, of Lamson, Dugan & Murray, L.L.P., for
Neb. 800] Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel,
Stacy. Kelch, and Funke, JJ.
an appeal from a judgment of the Holt County District Court
vacating an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration
Act (FAA). Because we conclude the district court
lacked jurisdiction to vacate the arbitration award, we
vacate the district court's judgment and dismiss the
Karo and Michael Karo farm together in Holt County, Nebraska.
They each obtained federally reinsured crop insurance
policies, serviced by NAU Country Insurance Company (NAU),
for the acres at issue in this dispute.
2012, the Karos submitted "prevented planting"
claims under their crop insurance policies, claiming they
were unable to plant corn on certain acres due to wet
conditions. Federal crop insurance policies are uniform, and
the provisions of the policies are codified at 7 C.F.R.
§ 457.8 (2017). "Prevented planting" for the
purpose of federal crop insurance is defined as follows:
Failure to plant the insured crop by the final planting date
designated in the Special Provisions for the insured crop in
the county, or within any applicable late planting period,
due to an insured cause of loss that is general to the
surrounding area and that prevents other producers from
planting acreage with similar characteristics. Failure to
plant because of uninsured causes such as lack of proper
equipment or labor to plant the acreage, or use of a
particular production method, is not considered prevented
The policies issued to the Karos also provided, "[I]f it
is possible for you to plant on or prior to the final
planting date [297 Neb. 801] when other producers in the area
are planting and you fail to plant, no prevented planting
payment will be made."
undisputed that in 2012, the Karos did not plant their corn
crop on the insured acres prior to the final planting date.
The Karos claimed continuous wet conditions prevented them
from doing so. The Karos did not attempt to plant corn during
the late planting period, but did plant soybeans on some
denied the Karos' prevented planting claims. It found
that excessive moisture was not general to the surrounding
area and did not prevent other producers from planting acres
with similar characteristics.
to a mandatory arbitration clause in the crop insurance
policies,  the parties submitted their disputes to
binding arbitration. After an evidentiary hearing, the
arbitrator issued a final arbitration award in favor of NAU,
denying the Karos:claims under the "prevented
planting coverage" of the crop insurance policies. The
arbitration award denying coverage was issued January 21,
denying coverage, the arbitrator found "[t]he evidence
as presented, concerning the excessive moisture in the area
in early spring, did not prevent most other producers with
acreage with similar characteristics from planting their
Karos Seek to Judicially Vacate Arbitration Award
15, 2014, the Karos filed what they termed a "Petition
for Judicial Review" in the Holt County District Court
seeking to vacate the arbitration award under § 10 of
the FAA. Section 10(a) provides:
[297 Neb. 802] In any of the following cases the United
States court in and for the district wherein the award was
made may make an order vacating the award upon the
application of any party to the arbitration-
(1) where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or
(2) where there was evident partiality or corruption in the
arbitrators, or either of them;
(3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in
refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause
shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material
to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the
rights of any party have been prejudiced; or
(4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so
imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite
award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.
Karos relied on § 10(a)(4) to support their request to
vacate the award.
filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. Pldg.
§ 6-1112(b)(6), alleging the Karos had failed to state a
claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court
overruled the motion and required NAU to file an answer.
NAU's answer generally denied the Karos' complaint
for vacatur, and it set forth several affirmative defenses,
but NAU did not file an application or motion to confirm the
March 2016, all parties moved for summary judgment. After an
evidentiary hearing, the court granted the Karos' summary
judgment motion and vacated the arbitration award under
§ 10(a)(4) of the FAA, finding that the arbitrator
exceeded his powers and manifestly disregarded the law.
timely appealed from that judgment, and we granted its
petition to bypass the Nebraska Court of Appeals.
Neb. 803] II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
assigns, restated, that the district court erred in (1)
reviewing and vacating the arbitration award; (2) applying
the manifest disregard of the law doctrine; (3) ruling that
the arbitrator exceeded his powers or so imperfectly executed
them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the
subject matter submitted was not made; and (4) refusing to
grant NAU's motion for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
jurisdictional issue that does not involve a factual dispute
presents a question of law.
1. FA A
Governs This Appeal
threshold matter, we agree with the district court and the
parties that the issues presented in this appeal are governed
by the FAA. It is well-settled that "if arbitration
arises from a contract involving interstate commerce, it is
governed by the FAA." The arbitration of disputes arising
under federally reinsured crop insurance contracts plainly
involves interstate commerce and, as such, is governed
exclusively by the FAA.
Iudicial Vacatur Under FAA
reaching the legal issues presented for review, it is the
duty of an appellate court to determine whether it [297 Neb.
804] has jurisdiction over the matter before
it. This is so even where, as here, neither
party has raised the issue. The threshold issue we must
address is whether the Karos satisfied the statutory
preconditions to seeking judicial vacatur under the FA A.
enacted the FAA to replace judicial indisposition to
arbitration with a 'national policy favoring [it] and
plac[ing] arbitration agreements on equal footing with all
other contracts.'" The FAA includes mechanisms
for enforcing arbitration awards in state and federal courts
that have jurisdiction,  including provisions for obtaining
judicial confirmation of the award,  and separate provisions
for judicial vacatur or modification of an award. The U.S.
Supreme Court has described these provisions as providing
"expedited judicial review" of
arbitration awards, and it has observed that "[a]n
application for any of these orders will get streamlined
treatment as a motion, obviating the separate contract action
that would usually be necessary to enforce or tinker with an
arbitral award in court."
observe that in the present case, the district court and the
parties appear to have treated the Karos' request for
[297 Neb. 805] judicial vacatur not as a motion, but, rather,
as an ordinary civil complaint, governed by the Nebraska
Court Rules of Pleading in Civil Cases and amenable to
motions for summary judgment under Neb. Rev. Stat. §
25-1330 et seq. (Reissue 2016). While the procedure used here
runs contrary to that mandated by the FAA and threatens to
develop expedited judicial vacatur into full scale litigation
with evidentiary hearings and dispositive motions,
no one assigns this as error, and in any event, the procedure
followed does not drive our disposition of this case.
Instead, our disposition focuses on the statutory 3-month
notice requirement for seeking judicial vacatur under the
FAA and whether that requirement is
jurisdictional in nature.
12 of the FAA governs motions to vacate and modify awards
under §§ 10 and 11 of the FAA. Section 12
provides, in relevant part:
Notice of a motion to vacate, modify, or correct an award
must be served upon the adverse party or his attorney within
three months after the award is filed or delivered. If the
adverse party is a resident of the district within which the
award was made, such service shall be made upon the adverse
party or his attorney as prescribed by law for service of
notice of motion in an action in the same court. If the
adverse party shall be a nonresident then the notice of the
application shall be served by the marshal of any district
within which the adverse party may be found in like manner as
other process of the court.
[297 Neb. 806] Use of the terms "must" and
"shall" in 9 U.S.C. § 12 of the FAA leaves
little room to argue that the requirements of serving notice
are permissive rather than mandatory. And we understand the
3-month notice requirement to implicitly require filing the
application within the same timeframe.
the record shows the arbitration award was issued January 21,
2014. It was received January 23, but the Karos did not move
to vacate the award until May 15, when they filed the
application in the district court and provided NAU notice of
the same via U.S. mail. Because the Karos' motion to
vacate was filed and served outside the 3-month period
mandated by § 12, we must determine the legal effect, if
any, of the ...