By Judge Bruce Moore
NAWCJ President’s Page—January, 2020
New Year’s greetings to my fellow judges of the workers’ compensation adjudication world!
By the time you read this, a new year and a new decade will have arrived. I trust you all safely and happily navigated the holiday season and emerged into the 2020’s, fully recharged and emotionally and cognitively equipped to tackle another year of workers’ compensation litigation. This year could be a dandy!
Speaking of a year’s worth of workers’ compensation litigation, thanks to Tom Robinson for sharing his article from WorkersCompensation.com, in which he offers his perspective on the “Top Ten Workers’ Compensation Cases of 2019.” The article cites what could be pivotal cases from New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Ohio, California, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire, on issues from marijuana to statutory incorporation of the AMA’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, to limitations of benefits for certain types of injuries, to classification of employment versus independent contractors, among others. If you haven’t already confronted some of these issues, you probably will soon. See how other jurisdictions handled these “hot topics.”
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that 2019 passed altogether too quickly. I still have 2019 resolutions that never quite made it past “go,” and I have a brand new set of resolutions that, in all probability, await the same fate. In fact, many of my 2020 resolutions are simply retreaded versions of 2019 self-promises, among them: losing weight (yea, right), beginning or expanding a regular exercise regimen (whenever I can fit THAT in), keeping my office, bench, and desk clean and organized (Ha, ha, ha, ha—that’s giddy, maniacal laughter, if you didn’t catch it), and catching up on many neglected projects around home (if they were THAT important, I would have already done them). It’s probably best if I don’t focus too much on my 2020 resolutions—it might undermine my optimism for the new year—and drive me to drink.
In the past few months, NAWCJ has transitioned to a new website and a new cloud-based version of our monthly newsletter, the Lex and Verum, with the help of Travis Keels. The editorial staff of the Lex, Judge LuAnn Haley of Arizona, Judge Robert Rassp of California, Judge David Torrey of Pennsylvania, Judge David Langham of Florida, Judge Douglas Gott of Kentucky, and Judge Shannon Bruno-Bishop of Louisiana, all deserve a thunderous round of applause for their efforts to make this possible. The transformation took an incredible amount of time and effort, and the editors responded in a manner that was above and beyond all expectations. Kudos!
Our website has been updated, revamped and directly linked to the Lex. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please add it to your “to do” list. Visit www.nawcj.org. Thanks to Judge Jane Rice Williams for her stewardship of the website. Our goal is to be able to search past editions of the Lex and Verum by topic and other criteria. We still need some help indexing past editions of the Lex, so if you have a few minutes to spare, and want to help, please let me hear from you. Bruce.Moore@ks.gov.
I would be remiss if I did not also recognize the efforts of Kathy Shelton, Cathy Bowman, Shirley Kendall and Woody Douglas of RMI (Resource Managers, Inc.). RMI provides the logistical support and “boots on the ground” for much of what NAWCJ undertakes, from keeping the books, to emailing the Lex, to hauling equipment and supplies to our annual pilgrimage to Orlando, and virtually everything in between. Their efforts and support are invaluable! Thanks, Kathy, Cathy, Shirley and Woody! You folks rock!
With Kansas’ new cloud-based case management system, referred to affectionately as “OSCAR,” I can see my dockets at a glance days and weeks in advance. Click on a day, and I can see what hearings are scheduled. Click on a hearing, and I go to the home page for that case, where I can see all the pleadings, including those underlying the scheduled hearing. I can identify the lawyers involved, review uploaded exhibits and, considering the nature of the issue, I can assess the likelihood that a matter will actually go to hearing. I try to “preview” my dockets a week in advance, so I can predict my availability for conference calls, writing decisions, and doing research. And, of late, writing my monthly “President’s Letter” for the Lex and Verum! OSCAR generates a docket for each day, to which I can add notes that give me a snapshot of each case: date of injury, place of injury, body part injured, mechanism of injury, relief sought, and previous proceedings in the same case, relating to the same or similar issue.
Many of my January dockets are already filling up, and if everything that is scheduled actually goes to hearing, I’ll have some long days ahead of me. Like the airlines, I book more hearings than I actually expect to hear, expecting that some cases/issues will resolve prior to hearing. The trick is finding the right balance: If I schedule too few hearings, and something goes out, I’ll have wasted space on my docket; cases that could have been heard were deferred until later, because the docket was “full.” If I schedule too many hearings, I won’t get through the docket in the available time, and some litigants will be inconvenienced by having their hearing(s) rescheduled. My solution is to schedule at least one more hearing than the time slot would seem to allow.
How do you handle scheduling of your dockets? How do you ensure that litigants get the earliest possible hearing and avoid wasted docket space? Be the first to respond by “dropping a note” to the “Letter to the Editor” link in this issue of the Lex and Verum, and I’ll send you an NAWCJ pen!
I’ve probably wasted enough of your valuable time. Until next month, keep your chin up, keep up the good work, and don’t fret if you have to make difficult decisions.
My parting thought for the day:
“The world judges you by the decisions you make: never knowing the options you had to choose from . . .” –Nitya Prakash