Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle, 539 U.S. 444, 4 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 444 (2003)

Opinion of Breyer, J.

Justice Breyer announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Justice Scalia, Justice Souter, and Justice Ginsburg join.

This case concerns contracts between a commercial lender and its customers, each of which contains a clause providing for arbitration of all contract-related disputes. The Supreme Court of South Carolina held (1) that the arbitration clauses are silent as to whether arbitration might take the form of class arbitration, and (2) that, in that circumstance, South Carolina law interprets the contracts as permitting class arbitration. 351 S. C. 244, 569 S. E. 2d 349 (2002). We granted certiorari to determine whether this holding is consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U. S. C. 1 et seq.

We are faced at the outset with a problem concerning the contracts' silence. Are the contracts in fact silent, or do they forbid class arbitration as petitioner Green Tree Financial Corp. contends? Given the South Carolina Supreme Court's holding, it is important to resolve that question. But we cannot do so, not simply because it is a matter of state law, but also because it is a matter for the arbitrator to decide. Because the record suggests that the parties have not yet received an arbitrator's decision on that question of contract interpretation, we vacate the judgment of the South Carolina Supreme Court and remand the case so that this question may be resolved in arbitration.


In 1995, respondents Lynn and Burt Bazzle secured a home improvement loan from petitioner Green Tree. The

Van Wezel Stone, and Gerald J. Thain; for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law et al. by Richard T. Seymour, Paul W. Mollica, Gary T. Johnson, Stuart Meiklejohn, Norman Redlich, Barbara R. Arn-wine, Thomas J. Henderson, Dennis C. Hayes, Vincent A. Eng, Elaine R. Jones, Norman J. Chachkin, Robert H. Stroup, Judith L. Lichtman, and Jocelyn C. Frye; and for Trial Lawyers for Public Justice by F. Paul Bland, Jr.


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