The Latest From Dave Langham

State Mediators New or Just New to You

It has been a spring of changes among the OJCC mediation professionals. It seems to have started with the retirement of John Brooks in Daytona. We will miss John, his insight, wit, and wisdom. We had no sooner announced his departure and Deborah Hart of Ft. Myers decided to transfer to Daytona. In the midst of that Governor Scott appointed Robert Arthur of Lakeland to be our new Lakeland judge. Shortly after that, Paul Harwood of Port St. Lucie decided to transfer to Lakeland to replace Paul as mediator. Tania Ogden was hired to replace Deborah in Ft. Myers, she started June 12, 2017. Today, A. Dawn Hayes from Tampa starts as our new mediator in Port St. Lucie. I am pleased to congratulate our new mediators, welcome two to new homes, and thank all of our mediators for the job they do with discussing and resolving issues. Their service has been invaluable to this agency and to the people of Florida.

Help Wanted!

The OJCC is advertising for new Judges of Compensation Claims. The notice is on the OJCC Website, and is attached to this newsletter also. The upcoming vacancies are in Gainesville and Tallahassee. These are both one-judge jurisdictions so the successful candidate will be both judge and manager. Applications and other details are here. If you have comments regarding either Judge Almeyda or Judge Pitts, they will also be interviewed in August for reappointment.

New Mediation Tool

We have made rescheduling mediations simpler for attorneys and parties. It is possible to view each individual mediator’s calendar, an aid to locating a vacancy of which you can make use. A blog post How to Reschedule Mediation describes it in more detail. The OJCC mediators work hard and some have minimal staff support. Using this tool will allow parties and attorneys to be effective and efficient with the task of rescheduling. Please use it!

Port Saint Lucie Temporary Process Ending

The Port St. Lucie district has been in a temporarily location for a few months. We look forward to moving back into the Port St. Lucie regular offices at the end of July. The premises have been improved and we look forward to this return to our normal operations. We remain proud of the PSL team and their perseverance over recent months adapting to this challenge. Their dedication and team attitude have overcome many obstacles!

Ask OJCC

The email address for our central e-filing assistance is askojcc@doah.state.fl.us. Questions about using e-JCC, about e-filing, appellate records, etc. can be sent to this address. They are not able to give legal advice. They cannot help you with your computer issues or internet issues. But they are the experts on the e-filing process.

Follow the OJCC on the Internet

Visit the blog through the link on our website, www.fljcc.org. Follow us on Twitter, click on the link at www.fljcc.org or type in @fljcc and keep up with what is going on. Share your thoughts using #workerscomp or #fljcc. Recent blog posts featured Waiver and Estoppel, Pennsylvania High Court Magnifies Protz, The Opportunity to be Heard is Important, A Move Toward Federal Influence, A Button Labelled Codger Mode and more.

Please do not scream!

All capital letters is the equivalent of SCREAMING. There is no need or purpose for all caps in your docket remarks. Please stop.

Tools for the Effective Workers’ Compensation Litigator

E-JCC tools, tips and reminders of which to be aware.

Thanks to our Judges and Mediators

Thanks to our OJCC Judges that participated in The Florida Bar’s Trial Advocacy Workshop in June: Eduardo Almeyda (MIA), Robert Dietz (MEL), Iliana Forte (FTL), Geraldine Hogan (FTL), William Holley (JAX), Sylvia Medina Shore (MIA), Stephen Rosen (SPT). The Florida Workers’ Advocates program was held in June, and Judges William Holley (JAX), Iliana Forte (FTL), and Robert Dietz (MEL) spoke, as did Mediator Stuart Suskin (GNS). The Florida Association of Self-Insureds this July will be addressed by Judge Iliana Forte (FTL). The WCI this August will feature Judges Clark (FTM), Hedler (WPB), Johnsen (WPB), Pitts (ORL), Sculco (ORL), Walker (PMC) and more.

Year-to-date Petition and New Case Volumes Published

The filing volumes for the first eleven months of fiscal 2017 are in. PFB volumes continue to demonstrate about 6% increase over last year, and new case volumes are unchanged to perhaps 1% over last year. See May 2017 Volumes.


Notice of Reappointment Hearing for
Judges of Compensation Claims

The Statewide Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims (SNCJCC) announces that it will meet on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center, 8701 World Center Drive Orlando, Florida 32821 (room to be announced), for the purpose of interviewing the following Judges of Compensation Claims (JCC’s) for reappointment; Honorable Eduardo Almeyda (MIA) and Honorable Neal Pitts (ORL). The Commission will also interview candidates for pending vacancies in District Gainesville (to replace Judge Renee Hill; appointment anticipated fall of 2017) and District Tallahassee (to replace Judge John Lazzara; appointment anticipated spring of 2018).

The Commission will also interview applicants for appointment to serve as a Commissioner. The appointee must reside in the Second District Court of Appeal jurisdictional area (Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, and Sarasota, counties).

Application forms for reappointment and appointment as judge and for Commission appointed Commissioner are on the OJCC website, www.fljcc.org, under the Statewide Judicial Nominating Commission tab.

Guidelines for the operation of the Commission are available at http://www.fljcc.org/JCC/snc.asp.

Applications (one original) shall be submitted to Lisa Mustain, The Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), The DeSoto Building, 1230 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3060 or Lisa.Mustain@doah.state.fl.us, no later than Thursday, July 6, 2017 by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. This may be hard copy by mail or delivery, or electronic in PDF format by email. The DOAH will distribute the applications to each individual member of the SNCJCC. The application form is on the OJCC website, www.fljcc.org, under the Nominating Commission tab.

Any questions or comments relating to any of the above Judges of Compensation Claims should be addressed in writing to: Wogan "Wogie" Badcock, (SNCJCC Commission Chairman), P.O. Box 497, Mulberry, FL 33860.

Speakers in Opposition to Appointment or Reappointment:

The list of applicants will be published (http://e-jccupgrade.blogspot.com/) by Monday, July 10, 2017. If you wish to speak at the Commission meeting in opposition to the reappointment of any of the above Judges or the nomination of any applicant, written notice must be provided to the Commission Chairman and to Lisa Mustain, Division of Administrative Hearings no later than Monday, July 24, 2017, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Your letter should include your intention to address the Commission and a brief explanation regarding your request. If you wish to present any documents in support of your appearance before the Commission, copies must be provided to the Commission Chairman and the Division of Administrative Hearings (Lisa.Mustain@doah.state.fl.us) by no later than Monday, July 24, 2017, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The DOAH will distribute the requests to the individual members of the SNCJCC. 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 of the above sitting Judges. However, the Committee will accept letters in support of the current Judges and applicants as long as they are delivered to the Commission Chairman and to Lisa Mustain, Division of Administrative Hearings (Lisa.Mustain@doah.state.fl.us) by Monday, July 24, 2017, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The DOAH will distribute the letters to the individual members of the SNCJCC. If opposition to reappointment of a sitting judge is appropriately filed, then the Commission may elect to allow personal appearance to speak in favor of the Judge, at the Commission’s discretion.

The Commission will meet telephonically on Monday, July 31, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time This meeting will be to discuss procedural issues of the Commission specifically for the August 7, 2017 meeting. This telephonic commission meeting will be open to the public by dialing 888.670.3525, and entering code number 249 217 2867# when prompted.

Thanks to Volunteers

Last week was a whirlwind at WCI. The best part for me is always the Moot Court Competition. I want to congratulate all of the schools that sent teams in from around the country. And particularly, thanks to the organizers who devoted so many hours to make this a reality.

Jacqueline B. Steele, Attorney, McConnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver & Stern P.A. Sarasota, FL 
Barbara B. Wagner, Attorney, Haliczer, Pettis & Schwamm, P.A. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 
Richard A. Sicking, Attorney, Touby, Chait & Sicking, PL Miami, FL 
Tracey J. Hyde, Attorney, McConnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver & Stern P.A. Panama City, FL 
Amie E. DeGuzman, Attorney, The Law Office of John J. Rahaim Jacksonville, FL

Participants:
Barry University School of Law
Baylor Law School (Texas)
Charleston School of Law (South Carolina)
Charlotte School of Law (North Carolina)
Florida A&M University College of Law
Florida Coastal School of Law
Florida State University College of Law
Mississippi College School of Law
Nova S.E. University Shepard Broad Law Center
Stetson University College of Law
St. Thomas University School of Law
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law
University of Miami School of Law
University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pennyslvania)

Judge Pitts Honored

Frank Wesighan wrote to me recently. He was proud to announce the Weiland Inn of Courts' decision to present its inaugural professionalism award. He graciously gave me permission to reprint his thoughts here. The following is authored by him. I would add that it is heartwarming to see the Inns movement gaining such traction in workers' compensation. With two workers' compensation Inns in Florida and two others being discussed, we have much for which to be thankful and of which to be proud.

On July 12 we presented the inaugural David Hammond Professionalism Award to the President and Co-founder of our Inn, Judge Neal Pitts. Judge Pitts was selected from 11 nominees by our Professionalism Committee which is comprised of judges, state and private mediators, claimant attorneys, and employer/carrier attorneys. The main criteria for the award are professionalism, preparation, legal knowledge, ethics, respect by all parties, honesty, conduct, longevity.

David Hammond was a well-respected claimant attorney here in Orlando who was taken from us in 2001 at the age of 51.  He was known for all of these qualities and our award was named for him by unanimous vote. We were honored to have his family – wife Cheryl, daughter Kate, son Mark present for the award.  

JCC Pitts received standing ovation upon receiving the award. We will present our award annually.

 

 We were also honored to have Claude Revels as our guest speaker who spoke on the projected impact of the recent cases on the WC system, his suggestions for areas which need to be modified, and how all of us need to work together to make the WC system better.  His speech was well-received by our members and although he is recently retired, his knowledge and experience would be an asset to future projected legislative discussions. 

Ray Calafell Rest in Peace

Ray Calafell, Tampa, passed away April 1, 2016 at 66 years old. He had a stroke in 2015 but had made some recovery. However, he suffered a severe heart attack and did not recover before his untimely death.

A Vietnam veteran, Ray began practicing Worker's Compensation in 1979, representing injured workers in Workers Compensation claims, Longshoremen and Harbor Workers claims, and Social Security disability claims. He also became an experienced jury trial lawyer during his years of practice. He was well respected by his legal peers and the Tampa community as a whole.

A tribute to Jim Smith upon Retirement

The following is from Judge Steve Rosen:

Jim Smith came to Tampa to do Worker's Compensation defense in 1974 after 2 years working at the Special Disability Trust Fund in Tallahassee. He initially worked at Marlow, Mitzel, and Ortmayer which was a Tampa branch of the Miami-based insurance defense firm. After several years, the firm became known as Shofi, Smith, etc. and a portion of that firm remains viable to date. Around the year 2000, Jim became a sole practitioner handling Worker's Compensation defense exclusively. Not only was Jim an excellent Worker's Compensation defense practitioner, he was involved in many workers compensation oriented organizations. He lectured on workers compensation extensively and authored chapters in various workers compensation publications through the Florida Bar. Jim plans to spend his retirement at home with his wife, Sheila, in the Dade city, Florida area.

CABA, miami, kerr, Almeyda, medina-shore, Charles Hill, judge

Congratulations to

There is a voluntary bar in south Florida called the Cuban American Bar Association, or CABA. As the name suggests, this is an association of attorneys of Cuban descent. Their mission includes promotion of equality, increase of diversity, the study of jurisprudence, promotion of equal access, and facilitating the administration of justice. Their complete mission statement is on their website.

Their website evidences a broad assortment of efforts and projects in the legal community including scholarship efforts, mentoring opportunities, educational programs and more. One of their projects is a poll cxonducted in Miami-Dade County.

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Great Time at the Forum Yesterday

Enjoyed a great presentation at the Forum yesterday. Thanks to Richard Thompson of Zenith for making it a smooth and cohesive discussion. Judges Anderson (DAY) and Medina-Shore (MIA) presented "A View from the Bench." Today, Judge Pitts (ORL) and Hill (MIA) are presenting with Leopold Garcia and Jeffrey Jacobs on a roundtable, forcusing on procedures in evidentiary challenges. 

Mediators Brooks (DAY) and Suskin (GNS) are also presenting "Winning Mediation Strategies" today. 

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Ninety-six Bar Members Speak at Conference in August

Ninety-six members of The Florida Bar are presenting at the WCI in Orlando next week. NINETY-SIX! There might even be a few more. I reviewed the program, page by page, and did my best to identify them all. If I missed someone, let me know. The annual WCI gathering is the largest workers’ compensation conference in the country. I am told that this year could see the largest turnout yet, as the conference celebrates its 70th anniversary.

There are a multitude of programs, National Trends, National Review, Safety, Multistate Workers’ Compensation Laws, Mediation, and breakouts for medical providers, therapists, attorneys, adjusters, and risk managers.

It is the only workers’ compensation conference of which I know that hosts a national judicial college focused on the workers’ compensation adjudicator. This year the NAWCJ College will have over 100 adjudicators from across the country.

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Congratulations Judge Daniel A. Lewis!

The Broward Bar Association Workers' Compensation Section presented the first annual Vance Moore Professionalism Award to Judge Daniel Lewis last month. In presenting the award, the Section reminded us who Vance was and why this award was presented to Judge Lewis. The following is quoted directly from the Section press release. 

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Friends of 440 GALA in October

The Friends of 440 is a collegial group focused on the community of workers’ compensation interests. Each year it hosts an annual Awards Banquet, and recently celebrated its fiftiethyear. This year the banquet will be October 24, 2015 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The RWVP date is October 10, 2014. The Friends are honoring four individuals for their dedication to the workers’ compensation marketplace and the organizations. This year’s honorees are Barry A. Pemsler, Esq., Robert J. Rodriguez, Esq., Mark A. Touby, Esq., and Joan I. Valdes Esq.

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gary miller, carolyn slowikoski, #workerscomp #fljcc #WECE2015

New Mediators Joining the Team Next Week

New Mediator in Miami

In January 2014, Mercedes De Los Santos joined the OJCC as a state mediator in Miami. She decided to return to private practice. In July 2015, Gary Miller will join the OJCC as mediator in Judge Castiello’s division. Mr. Miller is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University and the Shepard Broad Law Center of Nova Southeastern University. He has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1987 and was certified as a Circuit Civil Mediator in 2011. Mr. Miller has experience representing both injured workers and employer/carriers in trial, and has conducted private mediations. 

New Mediator in Pensacola

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B.C. Pyle

In Memorium B.C. Pyle

I received a troubling email late on April 29, 2015. Steven Pyle, a workers’ compensation attorney for many years, wrote to let me know of the passing of his father, B.C. Pyle.

He noted that I may not have known his father, who retired in 1994. I regret that I did not know him. On reading the email, I immediately noticed that he retired in 1994. It seems like several attorneys I knew either retired or moved away from workers’ compensation in 1994. The special session in 1993 created a new world of litigation in Florida workers’ compensation. I don't know if that played a role in his retirement, but it is intersting to have two eras concluding simultaneously like that. 

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2015 Frierson-Colling Professionalism Award

The Florida Bar Workers’ Compensation Section holds an educational program each April. It used to be called the Board Certification Review course. In the early part of the Twenty-first Century, the Section began partnering with the Workers’ Compensation Claims Professionals (WCCP) to produce the program with relevant thoughts for both the attorney and adjuster populations.

In 2008, the Section began presenting a professionalism award. There had previously been a professionalism award presented by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute, named for Bud Adams. Over time, that award was no longer presented. The Section saw a need for such recognition and named their new award after Albert Frierson of Ft. Myers. The inaugural award was present to Mr. Frierson at the 2008 Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute in Orlando.

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Great Time at the Forum at Championsgate

Enjoyed a great presentation at the Forum yesterday. Thanks to Richard Thompson of Zenith for making it a smooth and cohesive discussion. Judges Anderson (DAY) and Medina-Shore (MIA) presented "A View from the Bench." Today, Judge Pitts (ORL) and Hill (MIA) are presenting with Leopold Garcia and Jeffrey Jacobs in a roundtable, forcusing on procedures in evidentiary challenges. 

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Great Time at the Forum at Championsgate

Enjoyed a great presentation at the Forum yesterday. Thanks to Richard Thompson of Zenith for making it a smooth and cohesive discussion. Judges Anderson (DAY) and Medina-Shore (MIA) presented "A View from the Bench." Today, Judge Pitts (ORL) and Hill (MIA) are presenting with Leopold Garcia and Jeffrey Jacobs in a roundtable, forcusing on procedures in evidentiary challenges. 

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Congratulations Mediator Alan Gordon!

The 2014 John J. Schickel Professionalism Award was presented to attorney Alan M. Gordon at the Inn's of Court's holiday banquet. The remainder of this post (italicized) is a recognition of Mediator Gordon and the Inn banquet which was written by members of the E. Robert Williams Inn of Court in Jacksonville and is reprinted here with the Inn's permission.

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Did you Know Mason Wines?

Yesterday was a quite morning. Then around mid-morning I got an email from Steve Rissman. He forwarding an email from Judge Bill Douglas, letting folks know that Mason Wines had passed recently. 

The name was not immediately familiar. It occurs to me that I perhaps stay in contact with people that are older than me? Perhaps at my age, that is the only way to feel young? But, the addressees of that email began to "reply all." I am not a fan of "reply all." If I ever write a computer virus, it will be to permanently disable all "reply all" functions on the World Wide Web.

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kennie edwards

Congratulations Judge D’Ambrosio!

I received an email recently from a judge in south Florida. The judge had read my post congratulating Judge Lewis and wanted me to know about a gentleman named Kennie Edwards. He worked at a law firm in West Palm Beach several years ago. The judge told me "You would be hard-pressed to meet a nicer guy or a more professional attorney." He explained that Mr. Edwards was an "unassuming gentleman," a consummate professional.

The following is from the Palm Beach Bar Association website and explains who Mr. Edwards was:

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"Extraordinary" Effort Recognized by Attorneys

We have some exceptional people working for the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. I received an email recently from attorneys complimenting one of our state mediators, Ms. Hart in Ft. Myers. I hear from lawyers fairly regularly, noting a courtesy extended, an accommodation made, a situation handled.

 It is not common that someone writes to me and describes an experience with the OJCC that they characterize as “remarkable.” This story starts like all mediation stories should start, with the two attorneys working diligently to refine the issues and resolve things even before going to mediation.

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Congratulations and Thanks to Frank C. Wesighan of Dean Ringers

I am honored this week to recognize the community dedication and focus of one of our own.

The Florida Bar recently recognized 21 lawyers for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients. There was a ceremony at the Supreme Court in late January. In 1981, The Florida Bar created the President's Pro Bono Service Awards. The purpose is to encourage lawyers to volunteer free legal services to the poor by recognizing those who make public service commitments and to raise public awareness of the substantial volunteer services provided by Florida lawyers to those who cannot afford legal fees.

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Applicants for Ft. Myers Vacancy

The application deadline has passed for the anticipated vacancy in Ft. Myers. The applicants are: 

George Boring (Bar No. 0063370), Ft. Myers

Eric Bredemeyer (Bar No. 318442), Ft. Myers

Frank Clark (Bar No. 748455), Punta Gorda

Kenneth Kugler (Bar No. 0745456), Ft. Lauderdale

Tania Ogden (Bar No. 975826), Cape Coral

Timothy Stanton (Bar No. 0117404), Madeira Beach

Jack Weiss (Bar No. 0880612), Ft. Myers


The Commission member names and addresses as well as the notice of the Commission Meeting are on the OJCC website

Remember Judge Vocelle?

Practitioners in today's Florida workers' compensation have become accustomed to judges transferring about the state. Just in recent history, we have seen Judge Remsnyder transfer from St. Petersburg to Melbourne, Judge Pitts from Jacksonville to Orlando, and Judge Rosen from Jacksonville to St. Petersburg. It is nothing out of the ordinary.

Anecdotally, I am told that the practice was started many years ago. In 1985, Charles Vocelle was appointed to serve in Miami. In 1986, he requested that Chief Judge Shirley Walker transfer him to Lakeland. When she acquiesced to that, the practice became known as a “Vocelle Transfer.” It was not really a new procedure.

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vance b. Moore, Mark Zimmerman

Untimely Passings

Did you know attorneys Vance Moore or Mark Zimmerman?

It is in some part due to age, but I seem to know more people who are dealing with personal loss lately. The last year of my life has been strewn with friends who are dealing with personal loss, of a loved one, a friend, a business partner. According to the Pain Doctor, the top ten “stressful life events” include “death of a spouse” (#1) and “death of a close family member” (#5). I don’t doubt these, but I suspect that death of a friend, colleague, or partner are not far down that list either.

In September, I received the surprising word that Vance Moore had passed. Vance practiced in Ft. Lauderdale and the surrounding area with Hoffman and Moore. His was not an exclusive workers’ compensation practice, he also did personal injury work. But, he was known in the workers’ compensation community. He was known for his “passion for helping injured people,” as noted in his obituary. His career formerly included insurance defense and serving in elected office. He was a graduate of Stockton College and the University of Miami School of Law. Mr. Moore was 57 years old when he passed in September.

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Community Service, and Sebastian Special Olympics

Sebastian, Florida was the site of a Special Olympics competition recently. According to News 12, almost “1,000 athletes, coaches, volunteers, and family members gathered” at Sebastian River High School. The event ran over two days and involved “more than 100 people” who “volunteer their time to help with things like event logistics, awards, and serving as competition officials.”

Everyone is familiar with Special Olympics. It is one of those organizations whose events touch a great many people on a personal level. These gatherings touch communities, people, and remind us that in the midst of all of the world's problems there are daily struggles and achievements that are compelling and heartwarming. 

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