Thursday, June 14, 2012

Survey Results are Available

Each spring, the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) and the Workers' Compensation Section of The Florida Bar conduct a survey to gather perceptions about the Judges and Mediators that comprise the OJCC. This has been a long process in development, beginning with planning in 2007 and the first deployment in 2008, and with evolution since. The 2012 survey marks the fifth annual effort.

The Survey grew from a perception that bench/bar relations were strained in 2006. From a meeting of bar leaders emerged a proposal for a survey. From the beginning, there was a consensus that such an effort needed to include an opportunity for practitioners to comment on their perceptions of what could be improved in the various OJCC offices. The ultimate goal of this effort was to bring perceptions to the attention of the Judges on a more regular basis than is possible from the four year re-interview process alone.  

Through several iterations, this joint survey has been deployed in each of the last five years. The initial surveys were deployed on a free platform, with limited customization opportunities. We quickly outgrew the capabilities of that platform and hired a vendor for the 2010 and 2011 surveys. These were a marked improvement, allowing greater selectivity for the survey respondent, and thereby allowing response with a minimized time investment. The "comment" function of that platform also had limitations. In 2011 we therefore began searching for a new vendor, and through the efforts of Lisa Mustain, Administrative Services Director at the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), a new vendor was located and hired in late 2011, and a new survey readied for 2012. 

The 2012 results are in. They are available on the OJCC website, as are the results for all five years of the survey. Each year, the respondents are asked the same questions about the Judges and Mediators. Respondents rate the Judges from one ("poor") to five ("excellent") on their "knowledge of the law," "ability to comprehend complex issues," "knowledge of rules of procedure," clarity and concise nature of orders, "courteousness," "patience and willingness to listen," whether the judge is prepared for hearings, "impartiality" regarding the two sides of the case and the attorneys involved, and "punctuality." The surveys have always afforded respondents the chance to comment on the Judges and Mediators, and to comment on the survey itself. 

In 2012, one comment on the survey itself was that it contained the "same standard questions, not enough of them." Another Comment suggested more specific questions on the survey. Yet another respondent said the survey was "way too long, took almost an hour to complete." Another suggested "I would also like to see some questions about the staff at the judge's offices regarding their professionalism, promptness, cooperation, accessibility, responsiveness, availability, knowledge of procedures, etc. This is also a reflection of the judge's office. Some staff people are more caring in their job and it is a reflection to the general public that deal with them on various matters." These illustrate that some would shorten while others would lengthen the survey.

The survey questions are the result of hours of effort by the survey committee, which has included Judges Thomas Portuallo, Laura Roesch, and John Lazzara.  The committee has also included lawyers such as Dan Hightower, Rod Magie, Jeff Jacobs, Tuwanna McMillan, Richard Chait, Richard Thompson, John Brooks, and Jake Schickel. I am sure I am leaving some out, but this is a good representation. There has been a desire to keep the questions consistent from year to year. However, these comments will be discussed when the committee meets at the Workers' Compensation Educational Conference in August.

Some comments about the survey are more general. One respondent suggested: 

"The 'Average' classification is ambiguous. The 'Average' level of impartiality, ability/willingness to explain, etc. for a JCC or mediator operating in a system which is statutorily biased against Claimants and their attorneys would be unacceptable in any other area of the practice."   

Another suggested:

"why not cut the budget by getting rid of state mediators, and force the carriers to pay for private? also do jccs really need support staff. seems like since they rule on motions without hearings, and seldom do you see them other than for final hearings, which are few, that they could take over those chores. isn't that the way it is done with unemployment? is anyone monitoring what they do during the day. i know of some that leave at 2:00 almost every day. counting the number of orders they issue means little, since it takes 2 seconds to sign an order prepared by someone else. what about time sheets, where they reveal what they do. why not make them punch in and out. can't this be done by computer."

These comments are helpful. One illustrates the level of frustration some have with the statutory provisions that govern workers' compensation in Florida. The other suggests that there is at least anecdotal evidence of a Judge(s) that are not working full-time. It is, and has been the policy of the OJCC that our Judges will be impartial and that their job is to follow the law. There are certainly many who would like to see various changes in the statute, and their wish(es) may come to pass. It is worth noting, however, that all OJCC Judges and Mediators are expected to work full-time. It is my hope that if anyone knows of a judge or mediator leaving each day at 2:00, that she/he would step forward and tell me who is doing so, so that the problem can be corrected.  

One respondent commented on the survey and concluded "That said, I am aware that, the greater of the scope requested, the lower the number of respondents can be expected. I also know that coming up with the perfect survey is an impossible task. Thank you for the opportunity to provide some feedback." I appreciate this sentiment. A perfect product is likely impossible, but we appreciate your time in taking the survey and in telling us how it could be better.

Call me at your convenience 850.595.6310, x 108, or email me if you can shed more light on these perceived problems or if you wish to participate in the survey committee. 

1 comment:

  1. One item that is not addressed in the blog post or e-mail blast that led me to this blog is that the results of the survey are hopelessly skewed and are of little, if any, statistical value.

    Per the instructions accompanying the survey and the blog of April 3, 2012, it indicates that both adjusters and attorneys are permitted to supply results.

    Permitting adjusters to submit results skews them by presuming that they are expert enough with Chapter 440, the 60Q rules, etc. to not only meaningfully comment, but have their opinions given equal weight to practicing attorneys who have passed the bar and developed particular expertise in the subject matter.; something that is by no means certain.

    Adjusters are rarely present for state mediations, being permitted to appear by telephone and, even then, often permitted to close the call with their attorney permitted to negotiate within authority until the authority is exhausted and the adjuster contacted at that point.

    As it relates to procedural and non-final evidentiary hearings. I have never seen an adjuster. As it relates to final hearings, I can only recall seeing one adjuster at such a hearing in the last decade.

    In addition, adjusters are the designated corporate representatives whose decisions to deny benefits and actions in a claim are the very foundation of the OJCC adjudicatory process. If they don't deny claims, Petitions for Benefits don't get filed. In short, they have a vested interest.

    IF DOAH-OJCC is determined to obtain the opinions the parties in these areas, DOAH-OJCC should also submit the survey to worker's compensation claimants.

    Then, the OJCC should separate the results into 3 categories: attorneys, adjusters, claimants.

    Only then will DOAH-OJCC have a real idea of how the individual JCCs are viewed and evaluated by the members of the public they serve.