By David Langham
Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 0
In March, the Office of Compensation Claims Judges announced that there would be a consolidation of district offices (see Consolidation, Mediation and Compensation). Days have turned into weeks, and the plans for accomplishing the redistricting are becoming more concrete. Now is a good time to provide the workers’ compensation community with more details regarding the process and our progress.
For review, the consolidation map is posted on the Regulatory Workers’ Compensation blog.
Implementation will begin with moving counties to the Tallahassee District. It started last week with Liberty of Panama City (PMC) and will be followed in the next few days by Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy of Gainesville (GNS). All cases in a particular county, “active” and “inactive”, will be transferred and reassigned to a new judge. Thus, the impact of the change can be immediate (an active case), irrelevant (a case settled and closed decades ago) or potential (an inactive case that is simply dormant and could possibly reactivate for a future petition, motion or settlement) .
The week of May 15, we expect other counties to begin the transition. This will include the transition of Hardy and Highland counties from Lakeland District (LKL) to Sarasota District (SAR). The same week, Hendry and Glades counties will change from West Palm Beach District (WPB) to Fort Myers District (FTM), and Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee will change from Port St. Lucie (PSL) and Melbourne (MEL) to West Palm Beach (WPB). Each of these moves could lead to complications or questions in a particular case. Keep reading.
Obviously, the first transitions will be the simplest. Counties moving from the District of Panama City (PMC) or the District of Gainesville (GNS) to Tallahassee (TLH) will obviously become the responsibility of Judge Jackie Newman. This process of transitioning from one judge to another should not raise many logistical problems. Since there is only one judge in Tallahassee, this transition has few moving parts. The same can be said for the transitions of Hardy and Highlands from the Single Judge District of Lakeland to the Single Judge District of Sarasota (SAR), with all cases becoming the responsibility of Judge Eric Grindal.
The transitions from the West Palm Beach District (WPB) to the Fort Myers District (FTM) will be a bit more complex, as the three-judge assignments in those two counties will be split between the two Ft. Myers judges. This should result in an even distribution of the case population in these two counties (Hendry and Glades) between the two judges of the now larger FTM district.
The transition of cases to West Palm Beach will also be a bit more complex, with various cases from the five counties redistributed from Melbourne (MEL) or Port St. Lucie (PSL) among West Palm Beach (WPB) judges and mediators for the course in progress. responsibility. This should result in a fairly even distribution of cases from those counties (Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee) to West Palm Beach.
This initial process will culminate in the transition of Brevard County from the District of Melbourne (MEL) to the District of Daytona (DAY). Again, transitioning from a single judge constituency to another single judge constituency, this process should be among the least complex.
Likewise, Polk County’s transition from the Lakeland District to the Tampa District will be relatively simple but somewhat unique. When transitioning from work related to the larger former District Lakeland (LKL) County (Polk), the least disruptive methodology is for Judge Robert Arthur to remain in charge of these Polk County cases as they transition to the most Greater Consolidated District of Tampa (TPA). Thus, the existing cases will remain for the most part attributed to Arthur. However, after the transition, new filings in Polk County will be randomly assigned to one of three (then) Tampa District Judges (TPA).
This will leave work to be done regarding the transition of most of the Gainesville District (GNS) work (Alachua, Columbia and Marion). These transitions will continue into fiscal year 2023 (after July 1, 2022) and the transition of large counties in the District of Gainesville (GNS) will likely be similar to the transition process described for the District of West Palm Beach (WPB), with cases assigned from a single-district judge to a rotating assignment in Jacksonville or Orlando. However, final plans for the Gainesville District (GNS) transition remain under development, with more to be released later closer to that date.
The main touchstone for practitioners and parties is to remember that the judge to whom cases are reassigned in this process will subsequently be accountable to that judge for any questions or concerns. Requests for information or relief should be directed to that judge and, in the consistent and persistent voice of Rule 60Q6.115(1), the proper process to seek relief in any form is to file a motion . All litigants and attorneys should remain focused on this proven process to alert any designated judge to the need for assistance or relief.
David Langham is Associate Chief Justice of the Florida Office of Compensation Claims Judges. This column is reproduced, with his permission, from his Florida Workers’ Comp Adjudication blog.