In Inetianbor v. CashCall, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2014 WL 4922225 (11th Cir. 2014), the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that an arbitration clause requiring a consumer to submit his claim to an authorized tribal arbitrator could not be enforced when the Tribe refused to authorize a tribal leader to arbitrate.
To decide whether the forum selection clause is integral, we must consider how important the term was to one or both of the parties at the time they entered into the agreement. See In re Salomon, 68 F.3d at 561 (looking to whether the forum selection clause was “central” to the agreement to arbitrate, or “as important a consideration as the agreement to arbitrate itself”); Zechman v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 742 F.Supp. 1359, 1364 (N.D.Ill.1990) (“Where one term of an arbitration agreement has failed, the decision between substituting a new term for the failed provision and refusing to enforce the agreement altogether turns on the intent of the parties at the time the agreement was executed ….“ (quotation mark omitted)). To answer this question, we look primarily to the language of the contract. E.g., Rose v. M/V “Gulf Stream Falcon ”, 186 F.3d 1345, 1350 (11th Cir.1999) (“It is well settled that the actual language used in the contract is the best evidence of the intent of the parties and, thus, the plain meaning of that language controls.”); Nat’l Iranian Oil Co., 817 F.2d at 333 (“Whether the agreement to arbitrate is entire or severable turns on the parties’ intent at the time the agreement was executed, as determined from the language of the contract and the surrounding circumstances.”). ¶ It is clear that the parties here intended the forum selection clause to be a central part of the agreement to arbitrate, rather than an ancillary logistical provision. Brown, 211 F.3d at 1222. The arbitration clause expressly provides “that any Dispute … will be resolved by Arbitration, which shall be conducted by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Nation by an authorized representative in accordance with its consumer dispute rules and the terms of this Agreement.” (Emphasis added.) The agreement again references arbitration in the Tribal forum in the paragraph concerning the selection of arbitrators. A number of other provisions of the agreement expressly reference the Tribe, including the very first provision of the contract, which explains that the agreement “is subject solely to the exclusive laws and jurisdiction of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.” In total, the contract references the Tribe in five of its nine paragraphs regarding arbitration. That the designation of the particular forum pervades the arbitration agreement is strong evidence that at least Western Sky, which drafted the contract, and whose majority shareholder is a member of the Tribe, considered arbitration conducted by the Tribe to be an integral aspect of the arbitration agreement. . . Mr. Inetianbor’s arbitration agreement is quite different. It evidences an intent to have a specific type of arbitration in a particular arbitral forum. The parties to the agreement we consider here have exercised their right to “structure their arbitration agreements as they see fit,” by way of “choos [ing] who will resolve specific disputes” between them. See Stolt–Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 683, 130 S.Ct. 1758, 1774, 176 L.Ed.2d 605 (2010) (quotation marks omitted). “It falls on courts and arbitrators to give effect to these contractual limitations, and when doing so, courts and arbitrators must not lose sight of the purpose of the exercise: to give effect to the intent of the parties .” Id. at 684, 130 S.Ct. at 1774–75; see also Doe v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd., 657 F.3d 1204, 1214 (11th Cir.2011) (“Even though there is a presumption in favor of arbitration, the courts are not to twist the language of the contract to achieve a result which is favored by federal policy but contrary to the intent of the parties.” (quotation and alteration marks omitted)). As a result, the only way to enforce the arbitration agreement “in accordance with the terms of the agreement,” 9 U.S.C. § 4, is to compel arbitration before an authorized representative of the Tribe, as the integral forum selection provision requires. ¶ Finally, we turn to CashCall’s argument that the severability provision is evidence that the parties intended the general agreement to arbitrate to be enforceable even if the limitations contained in the agreement are unenforceable. Two provisions will be severed only “if the performance as to which the agreement is unenforceable is not an essential part of the agreed exchange.” Restatement (Second) of Con-tracts § 184(1) (emphasis added). The forum selection provision here is an “essential part” of the arbitration agreement for the same reason it is integral to that agreement. We look to a case in which we severed an unenforceable provision from an otherwise enforceable arbitration agreement as instructive. In In re Checking Account Overdraft Litigation MDL No.2036, 685 F.3d 1269 (11th Cir.2012), this Court severed an unenforceable cost-and-fee shifting provision from the general agreement to arbitrate. Id. at 1283. We said the provisions in the Multidistrict Litigation contract were severable because the cost-and-fee shifting provision did not “pervade the arbitration agreement.” Id. (quotation and alteration marks omitted). Here, by contrast, the selection of the Tribe as the exclusive arbitral forum pervades the entire arbitration agreement, including the paragraph labeled “Agreement to Arbitrate.” Based on these facts, we cannot disregard the limiting provision without undermining the express, repeated intent of the parties to arbitrate subject to that limitation. This being the case, the forum selection provisions are not severable from the general agreement to arbitrate, so the severability clause does not aid in our interpretation of how integral the limiting forum selection provision is. For these reasons, the designation of the Tribe as the arbitral forum is integral to the agreement, so arbitration can only be compelled if that forum is available.
Judge Restani concurred, but found that majority’s analysis faulty. Judge Restani argued that the FAA required an unconscionability analysis, not an analysis of whether the District Court could appoint a fill-in arbitrator. Judge Restani found the Arbitration Clause procedurally and substantively unconscionable since it required the consumer to arbitrate before a non-existent arbitrator.