Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed Barbara Case to be a judge of compensation claims in West Palm Beach, Florida. Along with other judges, she will preside over workers’ compensation claims brought in Palm Beach, Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties. Judge Case was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2001, following her graduation from St. Thomas University College of Law in 2000. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida in 1997. While in private practice, Judge Case served on the Florida Workers’ Compensation Rules Advisory Committee, and was named a Super Lawyer in the area of workers’ compensation.
It is an honor to be writing this message and beginning a year of service to all of you. Looking back, I was invited to begin my journey to becoming chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never would I have imagined that the topic of COVID would need to be addressed in my first chair’s messageletter, years later. Quite frankly, I am tired of talking about it, as I know you are too! But, we have been left in a very different world. The price of everything has significantly increased. There is a shortage of labor. We now live in Zoom land, personally and professionally.
Which brings me to my point. It is so easy to blame COVID. Everyone does it. COVID has become an excuse for being lazy. I am guilty. And, I am not just talking about wearing your pj PJ bottoms with a suit jacket for a Zoom hearing. Again … guilty. I am talking about how COVID has affected the respect that we show for each other, each other’s clients, the bench, and the legal system as a whole. Unfortunately, I have heard from several JCC’s and some circuit judges that there is a lack of professionalism in the Bar as a whole. This is not isolated to one area of the state, one side of the Bar, or one practice area, but rather has been spoken about all of us. Some of the stories are amusing, but some are not. I guess the point is, COVID has had an impact on our practice, and we need to be cognizant of that and overcome the perception that has arisen. We all started in this profession because of a respect for the law. Has COVID taken that from us?
With all of that said, we are fortunate that our section and practice area have fared so well. We have continued litigation with little to no delay, thanks to the vision of Deputy Chief Judge Langham and his team at the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. Thanks to the persistence of Jim McConnaughhay, Steve Rissman, and company, the WCI Educational Conference returned in December 2021, and we are getting ready to get back on track in August 2022. I really love their “Brighter Days” theme. The Forum was held in April 2022, and drew in record numbers, thanks to Leo Garcia, Mark Touby, and the Forum committee. The Trial Advocacy Workshop returned in May 2022. We are welcoming a new DOAH chief judge, Judge Brian Newman, and are looking forward to his fresh perspective and leadership
On a personal note, I lost a friend and mentor this past year in Judge Robert Dietz. Judge Dietz was a great story tellerstoryteller, and loved a good joke, even if he was the brunt of the punchline. He worked tirelessly for any cause he believed in. It is very fitting that the last part of his career was as a judge, as he truly believed in and respected the law. He was notorious at our firm for asking the “interview question.” Taking a page from Judge Dietz, I challenge us all to ask ourselves the ultimate interview question, “Why do I love the law?” I have no doubt if we listen to our answer, we will continue to overcome our challenges .
The Statewide Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims (SNCJCC) will meet Monday, October 3, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. ET at 1507 Belvedere Rd, West Palm Beach, FL 33406 (offices of the Palm Beach County Bar), to interview the following Judges of Compensation Claims for reappointment; Honorable Ralph Humphries (JAX), Honorable W. Ray Holley (JAX), Honorable Michael Ring (FTL), and Honorable Rita Young (SPT). The Commission will also interview candidates for a vacancy in West Palm Beach and a vacancy in Orlando.
Application forms for reappointment and appointment as Judge of compensation Claims are on the OJCC website, www.fljcc.org, under the Statewide Judicial Nominating Commission tab.
Applications (two copies, see below) shall be submitted to Laura Dane, Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), 1230 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3060 or Laura.Dane@doah.state.fl.us, no later than Friday, September 9, 2022 by 5:00 p.m., EDT. This may be hard copy by mail or electronic in PDF format by email or flash drive. Each applicant must submit a non-redacted (complete) copy and a redacted* copy. DOAH will distribute the redacted applications to each individual member of the SNCJCC.
Any questions or comments relating to any of the incumbent Judges of Compensation Claims should be addressed in writing to: Gary Frazier, (SNCJCC Commission Chair), c/o Laura Dane, Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), 1230 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3060 or Laura.Dane@doah.state.fl.us.
Speakers in Opposition to Appointment or Reappointment:
Applicant’s names will be published (https://fljccannouncements.blogspot.com/) by Monday, September 12, 2022. If you wish to speak at the Commission meeting to oppose any applicant, written notice must be provided to the Commission Chair and Laura Dane (Laura.Dane@doah.state.fl.us) no later than Monday, September 19, 2022 by 5:00 p.m., EDT. Notice should include your request to address the Commission, a brief explanation of your request, and any documents in support of your appearance before the Commission. Presentations in opposition to a candidate for appointment or reappointment will be limited to four minutes.
The Commission will not ordinarily grant any requests for personal appearances to speak in favor of any applicants. However, the Committee welcomes letters in support of the Judges and applicants delivered to Laura Dane (Laura.Dane@doah.state.fl.us) by Monday, September 19, 2022, 5:00 p.m., EDT. If opposition to reappointment of an incumbent judge is timely filed, the Commission may allow personal appearance, to speak.
The Commission will meet telephonically on Monday, September 26, 2022 at 3:00 p.m., EDT. This meeting will be to discuss any procedural issues of the Commission specifically for the October 3, 2022 meeting. This telephonic commission meeting will be open to the public by dialing (888) 585.9008, and entering code number 510 432 870# when prompted.
*Redacted format means that the document is submitted with redactions of all information made confidential and/or exempt from the public right of access under Article I, Section 24(a) of the Florida Constitution.
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