WCAB Repealing Court Administrator Rules after 3-Year Vacancy

Published on 08/07/2014 by WorkCompCentral, authored by Sherri Okamoto

The California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board hasn't had a court administrator for three years. This week, the Division of Workers' Compensation started the process of repealing all of the rules that went with the job.

The WCAB on Monday issued notice that it is accepting public comment on a proposal to repeal the Rules of the Court Administrator and integrate their provisions within the WCAB's procedural rules.

The reaction by workers' compensation stakeholders was decidedly non-plussed.

"I'm more interested in substantive changes," said applicants' attorney Alan Gurvey.

For the most part, the WCAB is looking to adopt the existing court administrator rules and simply renumber them as WCAB rules, without making any changes.

The administrator's job duties were assumed in large part by the DWC administrative director after Keven Star's term as administrator expired in the fall of 2011.

Star was the first and only person to serve as court administrator after the position was created in 2002 under Assembly Bill 749.

The position sat vacant for three years before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger tapped Star for the role. Star's five-year term ended on Aug. 6, 2011. Two months later, the position was eliminated when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1426, reassigning the responsibilities of the court administrator to the administrative director and the WCAB.

As court administrator, Star had been charged with establishing a priority calendar for issues requiring an expedited hearing and decision, furthering the uniformity and expeditiousness of trial proceedings and adopting uniform rules for district office procedures.

After leaving the DIR, Star made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Sacramento Superior Court in 2012. He is now in private practice in Sacramento.

The WCAB is proposing that the court administrator rules on ex parte communications, the penalty for a party's failure to appear, electronic filing, the settlement conference calendar and setting trials be repealed as duplicative of existing WCAB rules on these subjects.

When changes to the wording are proposed, the changes are for things such as the elimination of references to vocational rehabilitation attorney fees, repealed rules and the court administrator position.

The WCAB is also recommending the reorganization of the wording of some rules, the deletion of language that is duplicative of language in other rules and the replacement of references to other rules with the actual language of the referenced rule.

Those aren't the kind of changes that cause a lot of excitement.

Michael McClain, general counsel for the California Workers' Compensation Institute, similarly said his group will be weighing in only if it sees any "significant revisions" to the procedural rules.

Stephen Cattolica, the director of government relations for the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery, said his group is still reviewing the proposed changes. Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for the California Applicants' Attorneys Association, said his organization had no comment on the WCAB's proposal.

If adopted, the regulations with any final amendments will appear in the California Code of Regulations at Title 8, Division 1, Chapter 4.5, Subchapter 2, commencing with Section 10300. They will take effect as of Jan. 1, 2015.

The WCAB is accepting written comments on its proposed rule changes until 5 p.m. on Sept. 17. Comments can be directed to Margaret Hosel, Assistant Secretary, Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, P.O. Box 429459, San Francisco, CA 94142-9459.

Comments can also be submitted by email to WCABRules@dir.ca.gov or by fax to 1-415-703-4549.

The WCAB has also set a public hearing on its proposal for 10 a.m. on Sept. 17, in the Santa Barbara Room of the Hiram Johnson State Office Building located at 455 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco.