The OJCC cooperates with the Workers' Compensation Section of The Florida Bar each year to produce a survey. There is always a meeting at the August WCI to discuss the survey. It is an ongoing evolutionary process to build a survey that is worthwhile.
As a historical perspective, the survey grew from a meeting of practice leaders back in 2007. When I undertook this job, relations between the Section and the bench were strained. Discussions with then Section Chair Tom Conroy evolved into a meeting of practice leaders. There, some volume of pent-up acrimony and even anger evolved through that initial meeting to a conclusion that a survey would be "a" tool, not "the" tool to begin to explore improvements in the perceived relations. Since that time, dozens of judges and attorneys have worked to develop and revise this tool.
The survey has evolved over the years. Today it is easier to participate, with vast improvements having been made in format and organization. The initial design was linear and to participate regarding judge Winn, one had to first proceed through the webpages for judge Beck, and the rest of the alphabetical listings. For the last several years, the participants have been able to select her or his desired survey portions at the outset, and then is afforded details and questions only for those selected judges and mediators. Thus, participants can now easily omit those judges and mediators whom she or he does not wish to evaluate.
This year, the committee meeting was attended by Ralph Humphries, John Brooks, Karla Hart, Bob Cohen, Renee Hill, Richard Chait, Michael Winer, John Lazzara, Jake Schickel, and more. There was a spirited discussion of the purpose of the survey. It began with some misconception of the nature of the survey and its results; the survey is a subjective measure. Such a feedback tool will always be subjective. Discussions as to how we might make this tool objective are interesting, but ignore the fact that surveys are, by definition, subjective. In this regard it is perhaps a counterbalance to the wealth of objective data that is gathered in the OJCC database and published annually in the various reports.
One of the participants noted that the survey committee meeting did not include any defense counsel. That was a first this year. Last August's meeting was attended by defense counsel, as have the meetings in prior years. This year we could not find time for the meeting until Wednesday morning, and frankly by that time most of us have been in Orlando for at least three days and the energy levels are sometimes beginning to wane. There is that desire to get back to the office and the inevitable accumulation of mail and messages that occur while one is out.
The committee agreed to change the survey again in 2016. Some questions will be combined, further reducing the volume and therefore the time required to complete the survey. However, the Mediator portion will remain the same in 2016.
There was much discussion of the distribution list in 2015. The survey was only to be distributed to attorneys. Unfortunately, through my error, it was also distributed to a small group of non-attorneys.
In years past, some judges and mediators have explained that they wish to be able to see the survey in its live format. This to see how the attorneys perceive it as they complete it. Those who are members of the Section actually received the invitation to participate in prior years, like all other section members. In 2015, to afford each judge and mediator the opportunity to view the survey in its live state, invitations were sent to all judges and mediators as well.
The Survey meeting was unanimous in the conclusion that no judge or OJCC mediator should have access to the survey in its live format. That will therefore not occur in 2016. Thus, even mediators and judges who are members of the Section will not receive an invitation to the survey.
The survey clearly states its purpose, and asks that anyone who has not appeared before a judge or mediator in the last year not participate regarding that judge or mediator. There are those who believe that some people inappropriately participated in the survey in 2015. The suspicion is that attorneys who did not appear before particular judges and mediators nonetheless completed the survey for those persons. Unfortunately, there was also some perception expressed that judges or mediators may have ignored the purpose and statements of the survey and participated in the survey in 2015.
The results this year are published in a different format. In response to suggestions made at the 2014 survey committee meeting, the results for the judges are much more detailed this year. The subjective survey results are presented along with some of the objective information gleaned from the database.
The volume of trial orders uploaded and the calculated average time from trial to order are from the 2013-14 OJCC Annual Report. The inclusion of these statistics from the 2014-15 data would have further delayed the publication of the survey results because that data is unavailable until the fiscal year ends on June 30 and then remains under review as audits are conducted in the process of preparing the next annual report. As that report is not due until November, the final figures could be under review until that time.
The appellate record of each judge in terms of the volume of appeals and the results was current through the spring of 2015. That data is tracked on a monthly basis throughout the year and is therefore much more readily reported for the current year than the trial order data.
Is the survey a perfect tool? Clearly it is not. Perfection is a worthy goal, but there is little chance of humans achieving perfection. We continue to try however. We are blessed with a great bar and many thoughtful contributors. It is hoped that the survey will continue to improve. The 2015 survey results are here. All of the results are accessible on the website.
If you have questions about the Section/OJCC survey, please contact me at your convenience. We will meet as a committee again next August and you are welcome to join us.