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Message from the Chair

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 .

Joanne Prescott

Section Chair

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