Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle, 539 U.S. 444, 7 (2003)

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Opinion of Breyer, J.

The South Carolina Supreme Court withdrew both cases from the Court of Appeals, assumed jurisdiction, and consolidated the proceedings. 351 S. C., at 249, 569 S. E. 2d, at 351. That court then held that the contracts were silent in respect to class arbitration, that they consequently authorized class arbitration, and that arbitration had properly taken that form. We granted certiorari to consider whether that holding is consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act.


The South Carolina Supreme Court's determination that the contracts are silent in respect to class arbitration raises a preliminary question. Green Tree argued there, as it argues here, that the contracts are not silent—that they forbid class arbitration. And we must deal with that argument at the outset, for if it is right, then the South Carolina court's holding is flawed on its own terms; that court neither said nor implied that it would have authorized class arbitration had the parties' arbitration agreement forbidden it.

Whether Green Tree is right about the contracts themselves presents a disputed issue of contract interpretation. The Chief Justice believes that Green Tree is right; indeed, that Green Tree is so clearly right that we should ignore the fact that state law, not federal law, normally governs such matters, see post, at 454 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment and dissenting in part), and reverse the South Carolina Supreme Court outright, see post, at 458-460 (Rehnquist, C. J., dissenting). The Chief Justice points out that the contracts say that disputes "shall be resolved . . . by one arbitrator selected by us [Green Tree] with consent of you [Green Tree's customer]." App. to Pet. for Cert. 110a. See post, at 458. And it finds that class arbitration is clearly inconsistent with this requirement. After all, class arbitration involves an arbitration, not simply between Green Tree and a named customer, but also between Green Tree and other (represented) customers, all taking place before the

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