Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Upcoming Educational Opportunities

The Spring is a busy time; Summer looks to be just as busy this year. There will be many great opportunities for continuing education in coming months.  These are a few of the events that will feature Judges from the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims:

April 12-13, 2012 The Florida Bar Workers' Compensation Forum, cosponsored by The Bar Workers' Compensation Section (http://www.flworkerscomp.org/CLE.aspx) and the Workers' Compensation Claims Professionals (http://www.wccp.org/events/event_details.asp?id=198446). Thursday the 12th will feature a "View from the Bench" panel including Judges Castiello (MIA), Hill (GNS), and Portuallo (DAY). Judge Harnage (MIA) will team with Steven Kronenberg on Friday to present "Trial Practice and Procedure." I have attended this program in the past, and it is an excellent opportunity to gain perspective on Florida Workers' Compensation. The curriculum this year promises to be nothing short of an exceptional.  My congratulations to Allison Hauser on her obvious effort in organizing this event, and on an excellent and expert-packed agenda.  Here is the full agenda http://www.flworkerscomp.org/misc_docs/2012_Forum_Agenda.pdf

May 22, 2012 the Florida Workers' Compensation Institute Spring Forum will convene in Orlando. This program will feature a "View from the Bench" panel that will include Judges Lazzara (TLH), Portuallo (DAY), Remsnyder (MEL) and Rosen (SPT). I will also be providing a brief presentation on gathering workers' compensation data from the internet, and will be available that morning to speak one-on-one with attendees regarding the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims electronic filing programs.

June 8, 2012 the Florida Workers' Advocates (http://www.floridaworkers.org/events.htm) is sponsoring their annual educational program at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando. This is a program that is limited to members of the Florida Workers' Advocates. 

June 11, 2012 the Workers' Compensation Claims Professionals (WCCP) is presenting its 21st Annual Claims Management & Leadership Conference in Bonita Springs, Florida.  Attorney Robert Rodriguez and I will present The Impact of Technology on the Legal Profession, the Judiciary, and Claims. Mr. Rodriguez is on the leading edge of integrating technology into the practice of law. His innovations and ideas for case organization and presentation using technology are capturing the attention of fellow attorneys and others in the industry. 

July 9-13, 2012 the Southern Association of Workers' Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) will hold its 64th Annual Convention at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.  SAWCA attracts administrators, commissioners and other leadership from a multitude of workers' compensation agencies in the United States.  This convention promises a variety of excellent opportunities for continuing education and networking with the professionals that provide the leadership in these agencies.  http://www.sawca.com/events.htm

July 22-25, 2012 the Florida Association of Self-Insureds will host its Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida 34108-2300. Future blog posts will include more information about this program.

August 19-22, 2012 the National Association of Workers' Compensation Judiciary (NAWCJ) will present its annual Judiciary College at the Marriott World Center in Orlando. This program will include evidence for Judges, effective judicial writing, and making effective credibility decisions.  Details on the NAWCJ program are available in the Association's newsletter, http://nawcj.webs.com/newsletters/0312final.030412.pdf

August 19-22, 2012 the Workers’ Compensation Institute will present the 67th Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference (WCEC) at the Marriott World Center in Orlando.  The Office of Judges of Compensation Claims will have judges on multiple programs at this event. These include Judge Daniel Lewis (FTL) on the National Trends Agenda; and a “View from the Bench” panel at the Attorney Breakout including Judges Castiello (MIA), Pitts (ORL), Rosen (SPT), and Sojourner (LKL). 

I have likely missed a few programs, and for that my apologies. Email me at david_langham@doah.state.fl.us if your organization is hosting an educational opportunity that you want me to add to this site.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Changes at the OJCC for Fiscal Year 2013

The budget has been passed, and I do not believe that there is any realistic potential that the Governor will veto any portion relative to the OJCC.  This means that we will begin fiscal 2013 on July 1, 2012 with five fewer employee positions. The legislature has removed one judicial position and four mediator positions from the OJCC.

I spoke on Friday directly with each of the employees whose positions will be eliminated.  I feel for these employees and recognize that they are valued members of our team.  We are troubled by the loss of their contributions, but likewise forced to hard decisions by the budget.

Most are aware that two mediators recently retired (in Tampa/TPA and West Palm Beach/WPB), and that the positions were not advertised or filled because of this potential. We also have a currently vacant Judge position in Melbourne.  That vacancy had been advertised and the Statewide Nominating Commission had already advertised the vacancy and their January 2012 meeting when these budget proposals became public. The Commission made nominations for the MEL vacancy, in hopes that the budget would fund that position.  Unfortunately, this vacant judicial position is among those not funded in the 2013 budget. The following will explain what the Florida OJCC will be doing to eliminate the other two mediator positions, and to continue our tradition of providing unparalleled customer service to Floridians despite these changes.

The currently vacant mediator positions in TPA and WPB will be eliminated. Additionally, we will be eliminating the mediator position in Lakeland (District LKL) and one mediator position in Ft. Lauderdale (District FTL), all effective July 1, 2012. This will leave FTL, TPA and WPB each with two mediators. We will continue to provide in-person mediations in LKL. Rob Arthur, mediator in St. Petersburg (District SPT) will be splitting his time between SPT and LKL.  Fortunately, these two offices are geographically situated for effective coverage using this methodology.  We will be calling on other state mediators to devote pre-scheduled days in support of District WPB, whose need for such support is apparent from a recent mediation workload and volume analysis. Should the pleading and scheduling volumes dictate it in the future, we will ask mediators to similarly participate in support of other districts whose force has been reduced by these budget issues (TPA/FTL).

Judge Donna Remsnyder (SPT) this week requested transfer to the currently vacant Melbourne (District MEL) office.  This request has been approved and Judge Remsnyder announced yesterday that she will undertake her duties in MEL on April 1, 2012.  My thanks again to all the Judges that have volunteered for this MEL coverage since Judge Terlizzese's departure.  I am grateful to Judge Remsnyder for her sacrifice in relocating. This is a huge benefit to the OJCC and to Florida.

I am cognizant that the mediation force reduction in FTL, TPA, and WPB will require adjustments, effort and patience from our mediators and staff. I also recognize that there will be some impact on attorneys, claimants, and employers. I appreciate your patience in this process and transition. I am also grateful to the mediators from around the state that have volunteered to provide assistance in other districts.  The process we will use to deliver the services in WPB by out of district mediators will be sent to the effected Judges and mediators soon.

Know that I am proud of the OJCC team and the contributions that they each make to our success.  We will rededicate ourselves to the mission of the OJCC and persevere despite these budget reductions.  The reductions in force in this budget are not a reflection upon the job we do.  They merely reflect the efforts of this legislature to balance a budget in difficult economic times.  If you have questions or comments about the foregoing please feel free to contact me at your convenience.  My email is david_langham@doah.state.fl.us