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Coinbase, Inc. v. Suski, 2024 U.S. LEXIS 2263, 2024 WL 2333424 (S. Ct. May 23, 2024) (Jackson, J.)

The parties in this case executed two contracts. The first contained an arbitration provision with a delegation clause; per that provision, an arbitrator must decide all disputes under the contract, including whether a given disagreement is arbitrable. The second contract contained a forum selection clause, providing that all disputes related to that contract must be decided in California courts. Coinbase insists that the first contract’s delegation clause established the terms by which all subsequent disputes were to be resolved, so the arbitrability of a contract-related dispute between these parties is a matter for the arbitrator to decide. But respondents maintain—and the Ninth Circuit held—that the second contract’s forum selection clause superseded that prior agreement. This case thus presents the following question: When two such contracts exist, who decides the arbitrability of a contract-related dispute between the parties—an arbitrator or the court?

Basic legal principles establish the answer. Arbitration is a matter of contract and consent, and we have long held that disputes are subject to arbitration if, and only if, the parties actually agreed to arbitrate those disputes. Here, then, before either the delegation provision or the forum selection clause can be enforced, a court needs to decide what the parties have agreed to—i.e., which contract controls. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.