Monday, October 6, 2014

"Padgett," or "Florida Workers' Advocates," A Rose by Any Other Name

I traveled to the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) convention in Austin, Texas last week. It was their 100th anniversary convention. Amazing that this convention has been meeting for 100 years when you reflect that workers' compensation itself just reached its 100th American anniversary. 

I sat quitely in the Commissioner's Forum on Tuesday afternoon, listening to what is going on around the world and the industry. There were 41 leaders on the panel, which makes for a very diverse discussion of what is being tried, what has worked and what has not. 

The discussion was led by Dwight Lovan of Kentucky, who will be the IAIABC President for the next year. He somehow noticed when I entered the room, and called upon me to give what perspective I could on "that constitutional case in Florida."

He is not alone in his interest. I hear from other states periodically. They are curious. There is much discussion about the "what" of the case, that is what conclusions the trial judge reached, and what that means. There is ample disagreement about this in the legal world. There is also much discussion still about the "how," "when" and "where," as in how will the courts decide this case further, when will we know, and where will it be decided. 

I touched on the Florida procedural process in an August post. Essentially, "that constitutional case in Florida" is currently on appeal, in the Third District Court of Appeal. That is in Miami/Dade County for those tuning in from other jurisdictions. 

The Third District could hear the case, or could pass the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court. The outcome of that dichotomy will answer the "how" question.

If the Third District hears the case, then the "where" will be Miami (at least for now) and the "when" is likely in about six to ten months. If the Third District hears the case and disagrees with the trial court (it concludes the statute is constitutional), there is the potential for a further review by the Supreme Court. If the Third District hears the case and agrees with the trial court (unconstitutional),  the Supreme Court must consider the case.

If the Third District passes this on to the Supreme Court, then the "where" becomes Tallahassee and the "when" is still likely in about six to ten months. 

There is a request pending to "pass-through" meaning for the court to certify the case to the Supreme Court. The argument as I understand it is that this would make the process faster. Others say that it would only be faster if a substantive decision by the District Court was ultimately, and later, reviewed by the Supreme Court. Thus, it may be more accurate to say that the case would be finally decided no more slowly, and perhaps faster if the "pass-through" route is granted.

One thing that struck me is that I think it is time we came up with a better reference than "that constitutional case in Florida." First of all, with Westphal and Castelanos already pending in the court, each raising constitutional issues, "that constitutional case" is just not descriptive enough.

The case as decided in August, in the 11th Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County, Florida was styled Florida Workers' Advocates and Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group and Elsa Padgett v. State of Florida, Office of the Attorney General, Case number 11-13661. That is a mouthful. Some are calling the case simply "Padgett," others "Florida Workers' Advocates." or "FWA." Elsa Padgett was an intevenor in the case, and so some still refer to this case by the name of the original plaintiff, which I do not even recall, but are quick to say "Padgett" when confronted with a confused countenance in response. 

I checked my Guide to Legal Citation and it suggests that "FWA v. State" would be the choice of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (AWLD). Despite that, it just does not roll off the tongue like a simple "Padgett." In all, "Padgett" seems to be the label that Floridian lawyers and system constituents have adopted for this case, and will likely be the shorthand used for ready reference. 

Several people asked me last week about the Judge, the appellate court, and our Supreme Court. There is ample curiosity about the case and the how, who, what, and where of its anticipated progress through from here. I certainly cannot even guess at the ultimate outcome, but for those who want to learn more:

The 11th Circuit judicial directory is here, and Judge Cueto's information is here. More unofficial information from Judgepedia is here

The Third District Court of Appeal website has online information about the cases pending there, including Padgett. This court has jurisdiction over appeals from the Miami-Dade County Circuit Courts, and those in neighboring Monroe County (the Florida Keys). There is no way I know of to predict which of the ten judges of this court will be considering this case. 

The Third District has assigned this case number 3D14-2062. Checking the status of the case is easy with this number, just click on the "On-Line Docket" tab on their website. The public cannot view the filed documents themselves, but there are detailed descriptions of orders and other filings in that docket. The docket reflects that some are already seeking permission to file "friend of court" or "amicus curiae" briefs with the court, a common way for interested people or entities to bring their perspective to pending appellate cases.

The Florida Supreme Court does not have this case yet. However, should that come to pass, their website would be helpful. It is also helpful if you are following the other three currently pending workers' compensation cases. If Padgett proceeds to the Florida Supreme Court, the clerk there will assign it a new case number that is specific to that court. 

In the meantime, there are many commenting on and explaining the case. If you are looking for the latest, just Google "padgett florida workers' compensation blog" and you will find interesting reading from a variety of sources.

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