NAWCJ

THE 12th ANNUAL NAWCJ JUDICIARY COLLEGE



By Douglas Gott
Chief Administrative Law Judge
Bowling Green, KY

 

The 12th annual NAWCJ Judicial College is scheduled for December 13-15, 2021. If you have never been to the college, you are missing the ultimate gathering of workers’ compensation judges from across the country. It is an opportunity to obtain the best available training and education for adjudicating workers’ compensation claims. If you have been to the college before, you already know this, and further know that the College is new and fresh each year, and provides continued opportunity to grow into our profession and benefit from networking with colleagues. So whether a new judge or a seasoned veteran, please join us at the Orlando World Center Marriott in December. After not having the College last year because of the pandemic, the NAWCJ is excited about gathering in person this year. We promise a safe and meaningful program. The agenda for the college follows; a link to register is at the end. (There is a separate article in this month’s issue on scholarships available to attend the College.)

Program Agenda

 

Monday, December 13, 2021

8:00 – 8:50 am Registration and Information -Outside of Grand Ballrooms 1 – 6, Convention Level

National Workers’ Compensation Judiciary College
Limited to Workers’ Compensation Adjudicators and Regulators only. Grand Ballrooms 4 – 6, Convention Level

8:50 – 9:00 am -Welcome and Introductions

9:00 – 10:00 am – Evidence For Judges – Hearsay

Speaker:

Professor Emeritus Charles W. Ehrhardt
Florida State University School of Law
Tallahassee, FL

During workers’ compensation trials, attorneys often raise hearsay objections to the admissibility of documentary evidence. Although many jurisdictions are not subject to formal rules of evidence, others are, and most apply some standard to screen unreliable hearsay. Thus, the intent, basis, and purpose behind the hearsay rule and its exceptions are important knowledge for adjudicators. Professor Ehrhardt will discuss the history behind the rule and its purpose. He will also explain the most frequent hearsay objections raised in workers’ compensation cases and best practices for adjudicators when addressing timely objections.

10:00 – 10:50 am Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Panel:

Dr. Deborah Beidel
University of Central Florida
Orlando, FL

Jill Jacobs, Attorney
City of Palm Bay, City Attorney’s Office
Palm Bay, FL

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an increasingly common condition affecting both military and first responders in the United States. Many jurisdictions are  beginning to establish public policy for the compensability and treatment of this condition for first responders. Florida enacted its first PTSD bill covering first responders following the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando. The bill establishes not only grounds for compensability and treatment of this condition but also provides for employer training so PTSD can be detected earlier and treated more effectively. This presentation will assist adjudicators in understanding the  developing law and science behind PTSD.

10:50 – 11:00 am Break

11:00 – 12:00 pm Our Judicial Ethical Guides

Panel:

Honorable Melody James
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission
Columbia, SC

Honorable Linda Hamilton
Workers’ Compensation Board of Indiana
Fort Wayne, IN

Honorable David Langham
Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims
Division of Administrative Hearings
Pensacola, FL

The ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct has been with us for almost a century. The ethical standards have been readily adopted in various forms by the states, providing guidance for the judiciary. The application of those standards to executive branch judges has been a matter of discussion and debate. Some jurisdictions apply their code statutorily, others regulatorily, and still others decline to apply it. The ABA has recently worked to provide an alternative code specifically for administrative judges. Where can you look for guidance when the ethical issues present?

12:00 – 12:50 pm Lunch (provided) and Annual Business Meeting
Grand Ballroom 1 & 2, Convention Level

12:50 – 1:50 pm Comparative Law Panel

Moderator:

Honorable Pamela Beason Johnson
Tennessee Court of Workers’
Compensation Claims
Knoxville, TN

Panel:

Honorable Yuannie Arroyo Casillas
State Insurance Fund Corporation of the Government of Puerto Rico
Guaynabo, PR

Honorable Mark Henry
Workers’ Compensation Commission
Jackson, MS

Honorable Howard Metz
Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission
Baltimore, MD

Honorable Nicole Tifverman
Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
Savannah, GA

A perennial favorite at the college. The panel from various jurisdictions will discuss and compare the substantive and procedural similarities and differences in the states’ workers’ compensation adjudicatory systems. This is an excellent opportunity for attendees to consider new methods and procedures that might improve disputed claim resolution in their jurisdictions. Audience participation is encouraged to expand the discussion and introduce new ideas to improve efficiency and fairness in judging.

1:50 – 2:00 pm Break

Track One – Practical Skills

2:00 – 5:00 pm Grand Ballrooms 4 – 6, Convention Level

2:00 – 2:10 pm Announcements

2:10 – 3:00 pm The Noble Quest:

Writing The Workers’ Compensation Opinion – From Draftsmanship To Craftsmanship

Speaker:

Honorable Ferrell Newman
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Richmond, VA

A village idiot’s exploration of the Herculean task of vetting verbal, non-verbal, and documentary evidence through the gauntlet of applicable law and distilling
therefrom, reason and justice so fairly explained as to delude the reader into the gross misconception that the entire process was effortless.

3:00 – 3:10 pm Break

3:10 – 4:00 pm Trending Topics In Conducting Hearings In 2021 And Beyond

Panel:

Honorable Timothy W. Conner
Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board
Knoxville, TN

Honorable Bruce E. Moore
Kansas Department of Labor-Division of Workers’ Compensation
Salina, KS

Adjudicators of workers’ compensation claims face an ever-changing landscape of pitfalls. Among those hindrances are adapting to statutory changes, both
substantive and procedural; staying ahead of the curve regarding technology; interpreting and applying presumptions; dealing with difficult witnesses and
litigants; and ensuring that the evidentiary record is sufficiently developed to support a just decision. Judges Conner and Moore will lead a discussion of the most
significant issues currently impacting the dockets, from both trial court and appellate perspectives.

4:00 – 4:10 pm Break

4:10 – 5:00 pm Ethical/Practical Conundrums

Moderator:

Honorable Jacquelyn Lewis Newman
Office of Judges of Compensation Claims
Tallahassee, FL

Panel:

Honorable Nicole Tifverman
Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
Savannah, GA

Honorable Bruce E. Moore
Kansas State Department of Labor
Salina, KS

This panel will lead discussions of ethical issues confronting adjudicators—from Facebook “friends” to ex parte communications, and anything in between.

Track Two – SAWCA Regulator Roundtable

2:00 – 4:30 pm Crystal Ballroom G1, Convention Level

For the more seasoned adjudicators, Monday afternoon offers the opportunity for a doctorate-level exposure to comparative law in workers’ compensation. The Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) will present its 10th Annual Regulator Roundtable. Regulators and Administrators from across the country will discuss hot topics challenging workers’ compensation systems. Attendees will hear perspectives, initiatives, problems, and solutions.

5:00 – 6:00 pm NAWCJ and SAWCA Reception Grand Ballrooms 1 & 2, Convention Level

The perfect closure for the first day of our NAWCJ program is the official welcoming reception for adjudicator attendees, regulators, and associate members.  Following a full day of edification and instruction, this is the chance to mingle and unwind with old friends and new acquaintances from across the continent.

7:00 – 11:00 pm WCI Reception and Entertainment
Palms Ballrooms – Sabal, Sago & Royal
Convention Level

Featured Entertainment:

Yacht Rock Revue
Casual attire. Beverages & heavy hors d’oeuvres. Adults only, please. Refer to “General Information” section of program for additional information.

 

DAY TWO

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

8:00 – 5:00 pm Registration and Information
Outside of Grand Ballrooms 1 – 6, Convention Level

8:45 – 9:45 am Live Surgery – Lower Extremity Surgery
Palms Ballroom – Canary, Convention Level

Surgery Moderator:

Christopher S. Warrell, MD
Orlando Orthopaedic Center
Orlando, FL

Surgeon:

Randy S. Schwartzberg, MD
Orlando Orthopaedic Center
Orlando, FL

The 14th Annual Orlando Orthopaedic Center Live Surgery Event offers a unique interactive look into an operating room as Randy S. Schwartzberg, MD, performs
a lower extremity surgery. This surgical procedure will stream live from the Orlando Orthopaedic Outpatient Surgery Center with the help of moderator Christopher S. Warrell, MD. Drs. Schwartzberg and Warrell will explain the procedure step-by-step and answer questions from the audience. The goal of the presentation is to provide an in-depth education on lower extremity anatomy, all aspects of the lower extremity that will be impacted by the surgery, and examine how the injury and recovery period affect day-to-day activity and employment restrictions (including typical length of light duty and estimated MMI timeline).

National Workers’ Compensation Judiciary College
Limited to Workers’ Compensation Adjudicators and Regulators only.
Grand Ballrooms 4 – 6, Convention Level

10:00 – 10:50 am Writing The Opinion And Order: Messin’ With Medical Records

Panel:

Honorable Michael W. Alvey
Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Board
Frankfort, KY

Honorable Wesley G. Marshall
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Richmond, VA

Honorable Frank R. McKay
Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
Atlanta, GA

Judges Alvey, Marshall and McKay will offer strategies and best practices for drafting workers’ compensation opinions and orders, with examples on how to deal with
medical records and histories. Areas of focus will include clarity and concision in writing, determining relevancy, and strategies for addressing complex medical issues.

10:50 – 11:00 am Break

11:00 – 11:50 am Judicial Behavior On And Off The Bench: Ten Ways The Wheels Quickly Fall Off

Speaker:

Marshall L. Davidson, III
Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct
Nashville, TN

Judges have difficult jobs. They must often make on-the-spot decisions, such as ruling on an objection at trial, with little or no time for reflection. They must grapple
with zealous lawyers while at the same time navigating a fine line between ensuring due process and fairness to self-represented litigants and maintaining neutrality
and fairness to the opposing side. They must sometimes resolve difficult issues in a legal vacuum, as with an issue of first impression. And, nearly every decision a judge makes is subject to challenge on appeal by any party who believes the decision is wrong. To make matters even more interesting, thousands of ethical complaints are filed each year against judges by lawyers, parties who appear before them, and others. This session examines ways even the most seasoned judge can (sometimes inadvertently) run afoul of the ethics rules.

11:50 – 12:00 pm Break

12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch (provided)
Kids’ Chance of Florida

1:00 – 2:00 pm Explicit/Implicit Bias

Panel:

Chief Judge Shannon Bruno Bishop
Louisiana Workforce Commission Office of Workers’ Compensation
Harahan, LA

Honorable Meng Li Che
Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals
Olympia, WA

Evelyn McGill
Executive Director
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Richmond, VA

Explicit or conscious bias by an adjudicator can often be easily spotted or felt in workers’ compensation proceedings. Generally, it is evinced by the words, deeds, or actions of an adjudicator that are intentionally exhibited and reasonably interpreted as inappropriate and offensive. On the other hand, the implication of implicit (unconscious) bias is more difficult to readily appreciate or detect. This latter type of bias progressively develops over time as the individual experiences life and the environment causing certain stereotypes and bias to develop undetected. The presenters will help identify certain conditions that exacerbate implicit biases,  negatively impacting decision-making. They will also suggest strategies to eliminate, or at least reduce, the impact of implicit biases when adjudicators render decisions.

2:00 – 2:10 pm Break

2:10 – 3:10 pm Evidence: Ruling In The Moment

Speaker:

Chief Judge Don A. Myers, Jr.
Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida
Orlando, FL

Ruling in the moment is an everyday occurrence for busy trial judges. During the course of the trial, judges must rule in the moment on a variety of evidentiary  issues. These rulings often affect the outcome of the trial, especially rulings related to the admissibility of documentary evidence or oral testimony. This presentation will help adjudicators understand frequently occurring evidentiary objections and discuss proper rulings.

3:10 – 4:00 pm Judges Getting Jobs: Judicial Selection And Retention In State Systems

Speaker:

William Raftery
National Center for State Courts
Williamsburg, VA

NCSC’s senior knowledge and information services analyst will lead a walk across America examining state judicial selection and retention programs, providing insight regarding the growth and opportunities for judicial performance evaluation programs at the state level.

DAY THREE

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

8:00 – 11:50 am Registration and Information
Outside of Hall of Cities – New York & New Orleans, Convention Level

National Workers’ Compensation Judiciary College
Limited to Workers’ Compensation Adjudicators and Regulators only.

Hall of Cities – New York & New Orleans, Convention Level

9:00 – 9:50 am The Intoxication, Violation Of Law, And Related Defenses: Statutory Variations And Application In The Trenches

Panel:

Honorable David B. Torrey
Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry
Pittsburgh, PA

Andrew E. Greenberg, Attorney
The Chartwell Law Offices
Eagleville, PA

The operative liability principle of workers’ compensation is no fault. The presentation will review the variety of state laws, addressing certain defenses that  nonetheless exist: intoxication and violation of law. The panel members will discuss how these defenses are litigated and adjudicated.

9:50 – 10:00 am Break

10:00 – 11:00 am Access To Justice

Panel:

Honorable Shannon Bruno Bishop
Louisiana Workforce Commission Office of Workers’ Compensation
Harahan, LA

Honorable Meng Li Che
Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals
Olympia, WA

Honorable Sheral Kellar
Louisiana Workforce Commission
Baton Rouge, LA

Injured workers are often deprived of access to justice for various reasons. This session will focus on the inability of certain groups to appear in court due to their limited English proficiency. During this session, you will hear from a law school professor and several judges who are actively involved with Access to Justice programs that focus on barriers experienced by individuals with limited English-speaking abilities. They will discuss ways to identify the problem and provide advice and solutions to address it.

11:00 – 11:50 am Judicial Independence

Panel:

Abbie Hudgens, Administrator
Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
Nashville, TN

Honorable Sheral Kellar
Louisiana Workforce Commission
Baton Rouge, LA

Honorable Frank R. McKay
Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
Atlanta, GA

Honorable James Szablewicz
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Richmond, VA

How do states ensure the decisional independence of their judges? This panel is made up of heads of agencies representing two models: (1) an administrative agency that includes a specialized court to hear and resolve disputes and (2) a commission that is charged with resolution of disputes and administration of the system.  The panel will have an open discussion of the policies or practices in their jurisdictions regarding decisional independence and its effects. They will discuss case law as  well as issues that might be “taboo” and how they can be addressed.

ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMMING:

8:30 – 3:15 pm Conference on Multi-State Workers’ Compensation Laws
Grand Ballroom 7A & 1 – 6, Convention Level

Sponsored by the Workers’ Compensation Defense Institute, this program will provide insight into the workers’ compensation systems of Alabama, California,  Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Employers, attorneys, claims handlers, and state administrators from these states will discuss the significant developments and distinctions of their respective jurisdictions.

To register, click here www.nawcj.org/registration.