Thursday, April 19, 2012

e-filing is MANDATORY

Electronic filing is mandatory by rule and statute.  The OJCC has delayed enforcing this as we updated our e-JCC platform to accommodate multiple parties, out-of-state accidents and other issues which lawyers identified for us. The OJCC Website and other communications have been warning that enforcement would be occurring soon. Effective April 20, 2012, we will be enforcing the mandatory e-filing requirement.  Paper filing is still permissible for unrepresented parties, but the rule requires that any such paper filing is to be sent to the OJCC Clerk in Tallahassee.  60Q6.108(1). The address changed last year, and the Post Office Box has been closed, check the website for details.

If you file paper documents in violation of the rule, or e-file petition images (PDF) that were not created through our e-PFB tool, the filings will be docketed and you will receive a warning notice on the first occasion.  On subsequent such paper filings by the same attorney, the pleading may be stricken.  If good cause exists for excusing this requirement, filers should explain that good cause in a motion (See Rule 60Q6.115(1), "Any request for an order or for other relief shall be by motion") filed simultaneously with the paper pleading.

Please feel free to contact me at your convenience if you need help registering for or using the e-JCC platform.  We look forward to assisting you with the transition to e-filing.

The notice that will be provided upon the first failure to use the e-filing platform will look substantially like this:


Electronic filing by represented parties in workers’ compensation proceedings became mandatory on October 31, 2010.  A hard-copy or facsimile version of the attached pleading was filed with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims in violation of Fla. Admin. Code R. 60Q-6.108(1)(a), and Fla. Stat. §440.192(1) if the pleading is a Petition for Benefits.  Fla. Admin. Code R. 60Q-6.108(1)(a) provides in pertinent part:
“All documents filed with the OJCC, except documents filed by parties who are not represented by an attorney, shall be filed by electronic means through the OJCC website.”
            Fla. Stat. §440.192(1) provides in pertinent part:
            An employee represented by an attorney shall file by electronic means approved by the Deputy Chief Judge. An employee not represented by an attorney may file by certified mail or by electronic means approved by the Deputy Chief Judge.”
The filer is advised that the pleading was docketed, but is warned that subsequent pleadings that are not electronically filed as required may be stricken by order.  The OJCC clerk’s office is available to assist anyone with eJCC registration and use.

Clerk's Office
Division of Administrative Hearings
Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims
1180 Apalachee Parkway, Suite A
Tallahassee, Florida 32301

Changes in WPB Mediation

West Palm Beach mediations will be handled by more than Ms. DiGennaro and Mr. Langer.

Beginning immediately, the OJCC is reassigning mediations. Mediators Bisbee (TLH), Hardy (PNS), Oramas (PMC) and Suskin (GNS) will be handling WPB mediations.  This is in response to the Legislature's decision not to fund four of our mediator positions for fiscal 2013. Therefore, the vacancy created by the retirement of Charlotte Hill in District WPB will not be filled. WPB has a busy litigation docket, and to alleviate some of that workload on Ms. DiGennaro and Mr. Langer, cases are being reassigned for mediation.  

Obviously the mediation calendars of mediators Bisbee (TLH), Hardy (PNS), Oramas (PMC) and Suskin (GNS) already have appointments on them for their respective Districts.  However, ninety days in the future (after July 1, 2012), their calendars are much more open.  Our process of reassignment will include rescheduling WPB mediations into current schedules of out-of-district mediators and into their schedules after July 1, 2012..  

The long-term process will involve each of the following four mediators having assigned WPB mediation days.  They will cover these days by telephone or videoteleconferencing (at the mediator's discretion). The assignments are as follows:

First and Third Tuesday                 Mr. Hardy, PNS               850.595.6310
First and Third Thursday                Mr. Oramas, PMC           850.872.7774
Second and Fourth Tuesday          Ms. Bisbiee, TLH             850.488.2110
Second and Fourth Thursday         Mr. Suskin, GNS             352.955.2244

Parties and attorneys with questions about mediating with these mediators should contact them directly. It is our goal that the mediations for reassignment will be identified rapidly after the effective petition is filed. Once identified, our staff should be able to set the mediation with one of these "out-of-district" mediators quickly.  The parties will then receive their normal mediation notice from the OJCC Clerk.  

The process for rescheduling prior to July 1, 2012 is slightly different because notices for the medations before July 1, 2012 have generally already been sent.  The OJCC central staff is striving to reset those mediations at the originally scheduled date and time.  In some instances, the date is available on one of the four "out-of-district" mediators' calendars, but the original time is not.  In a few instances neither the date nor time is available on one of the four "out-of-district" mediators' calendars.  Our process is:

1. Attempt to move an identified mediation to the same date and time as reflected for the original mediator.
2. If not possible, attempt to move mediation to the same date as close to the original time as possible.
3. If not possible, move to a date and time as close as possible to the originally scheduled mediation.

All such "rescheduled" mediations will continue to appear on the original mediator's calendar. This facilitates WPB District Staff being aware of parties and attorneys expected to appear. The office of the "out-of-district" mediator will issue amended mediation notices in all instances, so that parties are clearly aware of their mediation time and date, and the identity of the mediator.  

If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience.  david_langham@doah.state.fl.us or 850.595.6310

Suggestions for VTC Mediation

In the traditional mediation setting, there will be an opening session with all the parties, and then split into caucuses. Each party/counsel moves to a separate room, and the mediator then shuttles between the various caucus rooms to interact with the various parties. Most often in workers’ compensation cases there will be two caucuses.

Our attempt to mediate using the video teleconference (VTS) equipment will modify this paradigm only slightly. In the VTS process, the mediator will be appearing over the television from a relatively remote location, and the parties will appear live as they do now. The telephone remains a tool to be used at the discretion of the mediator, for appearance of a particular party (ies). In the VTS process, the opening session will be in the VTC room. When the process splits into caucuses, one party group will remain in the VTC room and the others will move to a breakout room(s). At the time when the mediator would move to another room in traditional mediation setting, in the VTC setting the parties will change rooms, so that whichever party is currently caucusing with the mediator will be in the VTC room.

This process will require patience from the mediator and the parties. The movement of parties and their files/materials may require more time than would be required for the mediator to shuttle between caucus rooms in the traditional mediation setting. Because of the parties’ mobility in this VTC method, it may be preferable that the mediator place the call to any telephonic attendee from the remote location VTC room. The mediator then remains in control of the “mute/unmute” of the call to any remote attendee. This may complicate the communication between that remote attendee and others during times that the telephonic attendee’s group is not with the mediator. Therefore, it may be necessary to call a telephonic attendee repeatedly.

Video teleconference mediation will require OJCC Staff assistance at the mediation for completion of the mediation report. Staff in the mediation location will be called upon to print, scan and email documents and reports as necessary to complete the mediation. The parties should be encouraged to electronically file all documents that will be required at mediation. This will facilitate access by the remote mediator.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

OJCC Survey

Spring is in the air. Spring, when everyone's thoughts turn to, you guessed it, the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) Survey. Just kidding, we know that spring is a busy time for a vast assortment of family and professional commitments. It is a busy time of year, but the Survey is an important tool to assist the OJCC with maintaining and improving the quality of our service to our customers and to Florida.

The 2012 Survey is the fifth annual; it was initiated in 2008, and allows attorneys and adjusters to provide feedback on the Judges, Mediators and Central Clerks of the OJCC. The simple purpose of the survey is to improve relations between bench and bar. Attorneys should expect to receive their email sometime around April 15, 2012 (we thought we would let you finish your tax returns first, another "joy of Spring"). The invitation email will come from ojcc@privatesurvey.net.  Attorneys and adjusters may want to add this email to their "contacts" to assure their Survey invitation is not redirected to their SPAM folder.

The OJCC Survey email will include a link which, when clicked, will open the survey in an internet browser window. The email will be sent to members of the Workers' Compensation Section of The Florida Bar, and the registered users of e-JCC (the OJCC electronic filing program). The email invitation to the survey will be sent to the email address on file with The Florida Bar (for section members) or to the email address listed as "primary" in each users e-JCC profile. In anticipation of the Survey, please make sure that your email addresses are up to date with the Bar and e-JCC.

The Survey this year has a new look. A new vendor was selected this year, and significant time has been invested in preparing a user-friendly interface for your convenience. The OJCC is grateful to, and recognizes the time and efforts of, John Brooks, Jeff Jacobs, Judge John Lazzara (TLH), Lisa Mustain (DOAH) and Jake Schickel. Without their efforts, suggestions, testing and feedback, development of this new platform would have taken significantly more time and been far more difficult. The support of the DOAH, Judge Cohen, and Judicial Conference President Thomas Portuallo also bear acknowledgement and thanks!

The new platform will continue to ask demographic questions about the respondent/user. We are interested in the broad categories of who is taking the survey, in terms of the number of years each has practiced, and what region of the state in which each practices. Once this information is collected, the survey will allow the respondent/practitioner to select each individual Judge and Mediator they wish to rate. We ask that you only rate those Judges and Mediators before whom they have appeared in the preceding 12 months.

After defining the individuals you wish to rate, the survey will provide you with individual survey pages for each. Obviously, how long it takes an attorney or adjuster to complete the survey will depend on how many Judges and Mediators that person elects to rate. Your responses can be saved (there is a specific "save" button) so that you may take a break to get some work done or take a call and then return to the Survey. When finished, you can click "submit" and the survey will be complete. You may return to the survey to submit "saved" responses or to print your own responses at any time.

We hope that attorneys and adjusters will take advantage of this opportunity to provide feedback. Unfortunately, there have occasionally been inappropriate comments and feedback inserted by users. Appropriate feedback provides explanations of perceived process, personality or demeanor concerns, and suggestions for alleviating them. Appropriate feedback provides suggestions on how a Judge, Mediator, or District could improve operations or a specific process. Inappropriate feedback includes name-calling, insults, or slurs.

Attorneys and adjusters are encouraged to make positive, productive suggestions. Attorneys and adjusters are asked to state their disagreements (complaints) without being disagreeable (insults, slurs, etc.). Attorneys and adjusters are asked to rate only the Judges and Mediators before whom they have actually appeared in the preceding 12 months.  The OJCC appreciates your participation in the Survey and your willingness to let us know how we can do a better job for Florida.

If you have questions, comments, criticisms, or suggestions, do not hesitate to contact me david_langham@doah.state.fl.us.  Tell me how we can better serve your needs.