Academy Award Nomination Level Ethics Panel, Report From the WCAB Commissioners and a Legal Rock Star Hall of Fame Presentation of Top 10 Cases Impacting California Applicants
By David Bryan Leonard, Esq.
Day two of the CAAA winter convention started with what I consider to be an academy-award-nomination-level ethics presentation panel. Starring the Honorable Jerold Cohn, who presided both as a panel mediator and active presenter, along with Susan Medina, Esq. and Yvonne Lang, Esq., the panel was both entertaining and informative.
Using a combination of experiential war stories, direct reference to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, and good humor, the panel clearly presented practice issues and new ethical considerations created by the application of Senate Bill 863. The panel opened with the observation that post SB 863 all practitioners, whether attorney or not, are subject to ethical oversight. In addition, it was noted that Canons of Conduct exist for judicial officers as well. The panel went on to explain the chain of responsibility for law firms that send hearing representatives to the WCAB. They addressed issues concerning level of profession conduct, prohibited referrals, conflicts of interests, the duty to investigate, and the professional’s obligation to act with courtesy and competency. The issue of insurance carrier conflicts, prohibited cross referrals and the ethical questions regarding who benefits from the denial of treatment to an injured worker were also considered. All in all, it was a very informative panel which presented a difficult topic in an insightful and entertaining manner.
The information and perspective continued to unfold with CAAA’s second panel, The Commissioner’s Report. Arriving from San Francisco, WCAB Chairwoman Ronnie Caplane, Commissioner Alfonso J. Moresi and Commissioner Marguerite Sweeney presented current issues and achievements. Chairwoman Caplane opened with a summary of WCAB status. Observing that there were currently two Commissioner vacancies, she was thankful for the experienced staff attorneys assisting the Board. Noting the workload, need for rules of practice and procedure, and other Board obligations, Chairwoman Caplane was pressing for additional funding to allow for a full WCAB Board with sufficient staff to meet the challenges that will result as the implementation of SB 863 begins. On general statistics, for the past several months the number of Petitions for Reconsideration went down while the number of Petitions for Removal had increased. Commenting on the extent of change and regulatory creation, she advised the audience that the Commission does read public comments to the proposed changes. Chairwoman Caplane thanked those who took the time to present well reasoned assessments of the proposed changes.
Commissioner Sweeney discussed the extent of individual commissioner review and subsequent panel discussion of all Petitions. Each pleading is considered individually and collectively. Noting that only WCJs can make credibility determinations of witnesses, the Board noted that a complete record, detailed pleadings and a response from both sides allows the Board the most perspective when making decisions.
The panel concluded with a review of its recent en banc decisions. The panel also discussed the amount of time spent in creating and modifying the recent rules of practice and procedure. In response to the feedback from the public, the subpoena signature requirements will in all probability be abandoned.
The day continued with a Legal Hall of Fame presentation of the top 10 cases, Panelists Joseph Capurro, Esq., WCJ Colleen Casey, G. Ronald Feenberg, Esq., William Herreras, Esq. and Lawrence Silver, Esq. discussed, analyzed and dissected recent judicial developments. Delving into the depths, ramifications and applications of current legal trends the top 10 case presentation was a thought provoking and provocative indicator of future litigation theory and application.
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