Division of Workers’ Compensation To Investigate Claims Filed by Judges
The Division of Workers' Compensation on Wednesday announced that it would launch an investigation of the Workers' Compensation Ethics Advisory Committee, which reviews complaints against judges, and increase efforts to ensure workers' compensation cases filed by judges are not heard by their colleagues, the Sacramento Bee reports. The actions come after the Bee in November reported on the high rates of on-the-job injuries claimed by worker's compensation judges, according to DWC Director Andrea Hoch.
The Bee investigation found that worker's compensation judges were six times as likely as other judges to file injury cases. Such cases involved judges who "were hurt tripping over phone cords, loading boxes into trunks and rearranging artwork," the Bee reports.
Hoch said on Wednesday that she wants to evaluate the types of complaints received by the advisory panel, which was created in 1996 to review complaints against judges, and how the committee receives complaints. "We're seeing if there's anything to do to improve its effectiveness," she said.
She added that there might be a way for attorneys to file ethical complaints anonymously, "without concern for the consequences." Critics say that attorneys might be reluctant to ask judges to excuse "themselves in the close-knit world of workers' comp," the Bee reports.
Hoch said she also wants to ensure that the case transfer policy, which requires all employees who file workers' compensation claims have their cases transferred to avoid being handled by immediate colleagues, is being followed. Formalizing the process through regulation is one possibility, she said.
Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) said, "If the judges are unwilling to use the new laws in ways that are appropriate, then get some new judges. They are there to administer the law, not to abuse it" (Hill/Korber, Sacramento Bee, 12/2).
The workers' compensation "fiasco isn't [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger's [R] fault alone," Steve Lopez writes in his Los Angeles Times "Points West" column, noting that the "phony" workers' compensation reform bill "got stamped by the Legislature." However, the governor "is the one who touted the reform as if it were the breakthrough of the century," Lopez writes (Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.