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. 

The Latest From Dave Langham

OJCC Filings are Trending up
There is no way to know why the filings are increasing, but the overall trend for fiscal year 2016 show increases in both PFB and "new case" volumes. The details are in a recent blog post. http://flojcc.blogspot.com/2016/06/filing-rates-at-ojcc.html

New Judges
We are currently managing vacant judgeships in Ft. Myers, Panama City, Pt. St. Lucie, and West Palm Beach. The WPB situation is a little more interesting as we have two vacancies there. A big thank you to Judge D'Ambrosio is in order as she perseveres in WPB. Not a week passes without someone asking me when we will hear from the Governor regarding appointments. We make contact to check status periodically and when we know something you will know something. We cannot predict; it would be conjecture. In the meantime, the temporary processes are described here. If you are experiencing issues, difficulties or just have questions, do not hesitate to call Judge Langham at 850.595.6310 x 108 or email david.langham@doah.state.fl.us.

Statewide Nominating Commission to Meet
The Commission will next meet in August to interview Judges for Reappointment. The Statewide Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims (SNCJCC) announces that it will meet on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center, 8701 World Center Drive Orlando, Florida 32821, for the purpose of interviewing the following Judges of Compensation Claims (JCC's) for reappointment; Honorable Mary D'Ambrosio (WPB), Honorable Daniel Lewis (FTL), Honorable Mark Massey (TPA), Honorable Stephen Rosen (SPT), Honorable Thomas Sculco (ORL). More details are here.  

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 posts featured Questions about Mediation, Daubert Better Explained,  Someone has to Pay  and more.

Tools for the Effective Workers' Compensation Litigator
E-JCC tools, tips and reminders of which to be aware.
Attorneys represent clients. Law firms do not.
Retirement or death.
Pretrial compliance questionnaire tool?
The tool for checking your calendar?

Monitor your daily filings?

Mark Your Calendar
Florida Workers' Advocates, Orlando, June 3, 2016
Workers' Compensation Claims Professionals, Bonita Springs, June 12-15.
Florida Association of Self-Insured's, Naples, July 17-20
Southern Association of Workers' Compensation Administrators, Sandestin, July 25-29
Workers' Compensation Institute, Orlando, August 21-24, 2016

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.

Lunch and Learns with the Bar Are Back!
June 8, 2016 Judge James Condry (ORL).  What a line-up of great judges!

Thanks to our Judges
Recently the following judges have appeared on panels at educational programs. Orange County Bench and Bar included Judges Anderson (DAY), Condry (ORL), Dietz (MEL), Pitts (ORL), Sculco (ORL), and Sojourner (LKL). The WCI Spring Forum included a panel discussion Anderson DAY), Kerr, Sculco (ORL), and Sojourner (LKL). At the Florida Bar Section Forum in April Judges Almeyda (MIA), Dietz (MEL), Humphries (JAX), Massey (TPA), Medina-Shore (MIA) and Pitts (ORL) presented.

Upcoming Opportunities to Hear Our Judges
The following Judges are speaking at the WCI in August: James Condry (ORL), Robert Dietz (MEL), Iliana Forte (FTL), Margret Kerr (MIA), John Lazzara (TLH), Ellen Lorenzen (TPA), Neal Pitts (ORL), Stephen Rosen (SPT), Thomas Sculco (ORL), and Nolan Winn (PNS).

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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