Michigan Governor Rick Snyder looks to replace more than half the state wide magistrates who decide workers compensation cases.
Applications are now being accepted for appointment to the Board of Magistrates. Nine out of seventeen positions will expire on January 26, 2013 and need to be filled.
The role of magistrate is very important. These are the people who make the decision about disputed claims.
Some magistrates have defense backgrounds while others have represented injured workers. These different life experiences can color the way a magistrate views a particular case.
Magistrate disposition statistics for 2012 show only 42% of cases are successful when comparing open awards to denials.
House Bill 5002 (workers compensation reform)
In the past, a person who wanted to be a magistrate needed to be approved by the Qualifications Advisory Committee. A candidate was required to show considerable experience in the field of workers compensation or pass a written examination. The Committee was made up of representatives from both labor and business.
House Bill 5002 abolished the Qualifications Advisory Committee and made the selection of magistrates strictly a political decision. Term limits have also been eliminated so new magistrates can serve indefinitely.
The only requirement now is for appointees to be members of the State Bar of Michigan who have been licensed in the state for five or more years.
The application for magistrate now includes questions about race, gender, and political affiliation. You are also asked to list any person or group who might take overt or covert steps to attack your appointment.
A disclaimer at the bottom says these questions are asked to “ensure that this administration considers the talent and creativity of a diverse pool of candidates.” We are not convinced.
Our concern is that these positions will be filled with political appointees with little practical knowledge of workers compensation law. Some with ties to special interest groups who have an agenda to deny benefits.
Our 2 cents
It is critical that the role of magistrate remain impartial. The governor would be wise to select candidates who have experience with workers compensation law and who are not just political cronies.
To speak with one of our workers compensation attorneys in Michigan, call (855) 221-2667 for a free consultation.
– Alex Berman is the founder of Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers. Hes been representing injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Alex has helped countless people obtain workers compensation benefits and never charges a fee to evaluate a case.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Vectorportal.