This week, the Wikipedia Signpost examines the role of the ArbCom and the functions of the committee.
The Wikipedia Arbitration Committee is the last step in the dispute resolution process, hearing cases ranging from charges of administrative power abuse to point-of-view pushing. The Committee, consisting of 12 respected Wikipedians appointed by Jimbo guided by annual elections, has the authority to dole out remedies, including permanently banning users, and is the only committee, aside from Jimbo, that can punish users for anything other than simple vandalism.
The process begins when one or more parties makes a Request for Arbitration. Under the Arbitration policy, anyone can file a RfAr. After doing so, the initiating party must contact all involved persons, informing them of the pending Arbitration case. Next, the initiating party must either demonstrate that previous steps under the dispute resolution, such as requests for comments and mediation, have been tried and failed, or prove that those steps would be futile. Finally, a brief summary of the dispute must be provided; each party has the right to give his/her own summary. While the statement is officially limited to 500 words, it is not always strictly enforced; parties have been known to give far longer statements without any consequences.
Following the filing of the request, Arbitrators then decide whether to hear the case or not. Each Arbitrator can either accept, reject, abstain, or recuse themselves from the case. Four accept votes are required in order to hear the case; after the fourth vote is collected, a minimum of 24 hours will have to pass before the case is accepted.
After a case has been accepted, the process moves on to the evidence collecting stage. Anyone, not just the involved parties, may collect evidence in the forms of diffs. If any evidence or claim is contested, counter-evidence must be provided.
During this period, a workshop for each case is created. The workshop serves as the place where the evidence is analyzed, and proposed findings of facts and principles are discussed. At this point, either party or the Arbitrators may motion for a temporary injunction, which are binding decisions in effect until the closure of the Arbitration case. In addition, the Arbitrators propose and discuss principles, finding of facts regarding the actions of the user in question, remedies, such as probation or banning, and the appropriate enforcement. In addition, the evidence is analyzed and discussed. Both the involved parties and Arbitrators can participate in commenting on the evidence and proposals; however, the comments are divided into sections for Arbitrators, involved parties, and other non-involved parties.
After the discussion at the workshop, the case proceeds to the voting by Arbitrators. Each proposal discussed during the workshop stage is voted upon; a simple majority of votes by active, non-recused Arbitrators is required to pass the proposal. Following the vote and an unspecified period of time, Arbitrators must motion to close the case. Four net support votes to close the case are required to close the Arbitration case; each oppose vote discounts one support vote. A case cannot be closed until a minimum of 24 hours after the first support vote by an Arbitrator.
After the motion is passed, the Arbitration case is closed. The remedies and enforcement take place, and an announcement is usually made at the administrators' noticeboard. Once a case is closed, the case cannot be appealed to the Arbitration Committee; all appeals must go directly to Jimbo.
Next week — Criticism of Arbitration Committee