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2010 Florida Statutes

SECTION 45
Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.
F.S. 440.45
440.45 Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims.
(1)(a) There is created the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims within the Department of Management Services. The Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims shall be headed by the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims. The Deputy Chief Judge shall report to the director of the Division of Administrative Hearings. The Deputy Chief Judge shall be appointed by the Governor for a term of 4 years from a list of three names submitted by the statewide nominating commission created under subsection (2). The Deputy Chief Judge must demonstrate prior administrative experience and possess the same qualifications for appointment as a judge of compensation claims, and the procedure for reappointment of the Deputy Chief Judge will be the same as for reappointment of a judge of compensation claims. The office shall be a separate budget entity and the director of the Division of Administrative Hearings shall be its agency head for all purposes, including, but not limited to, rulemaking pursuant to subsection (4) and establishing agency policies and procedures. The Department of Management Services shall provide administrative support and service to the office to the extent requested by the director of the Division of Administrative Hearings but shall not direct, supervise, or control the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims in any manner, including, but not limited to, personnel, purchasing, budgetary matters, or property transactions. The operating budget of the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims shall be paid out of the Workers’ Compensation Administration Trust Fund established in s. 440.50.
(b) Effective October 1, 2001, the position of Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims is created.
(2)(a) The Governor shall appoint full-time judges of compensation claims to conduct proceedings as required by this chapter or other law. No person may be nominated to serve as a judge of compensation claims unless he or she has been a member of The Florida Bar in good standing for the previous 5 years and is experienced in the practice of law of workers’ compensation. No judge of compensation claims shall engage in the private practice of law during a term of office.
(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c), the Governor shall appoint a judge of compensation claims from a list of three persons nominated by a statewide nominating commission. The statewide nominating commission shall be composed of the following:
1. Five members, at least one of whom must be a member of a minority group as defined in s. 288.703(3), one of each who resides in each of the territorial jurisdictions of the district courts of appeal, appointed by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar from among The Florida Bar members who are engaged in the practice of law. On July 1, 1999, the term of office of each person appointed by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar to the commission expires. The Board of Governors shall appoint members who reside in the odd-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 4-year terms each, beginning July 1, 1999, and members who reside in the even-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 2-year terms each, beginning July 1, 1999. Thereafter, each member shall be appointed for a 4-year term;
2. Five electors, at least one of whom must be a member of a minority group as defined in s. 288.703(3), one of each who resides in each of the territorial jurisdictions of the district courts of appeal, appointed by the Governor. On July 1, 1999, the term of office of each person appointed by the Governor to the commission expires. The Governor shall appoint members who reside in the odd-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 2-year terms each, beginning July 1, 1999, and members who reside in the even-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 4-year terms each, beginning July 1, 1999. Thereafter, each member shall be appointed for a 4-year term; and
3. Five electors, at least one of whom must be a member of a minority group as defined in s. 288.703(3), one of each who resides in the territorial jurisdictions of the district courts of appeal, selected and appointed by a majority vote of the other 10 members of the commission. On October 1, 1999, the term of office of each person appointed to the commission by its other members expires. A majority of the other members of the commission shall appoint members who reside in the odd-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 2-year terms each, beginning October 1, 1999, and members who reside in the even-numbered district court of appeal jurisdictions to 4-year terms each, beginning October 1, 1999. Thereafter, each member shall be appointed for a 4-year term.

A vacancy occurring on the commission shall be filled by the original appointing authority for the unexpired balance of the term. No attorney who appears before any judge of compensation claims more than four times a year is eligible to serve on the statewide nominating commission. The meetings and determinations of the nominating commission as to the judges of compensation claims shall be open to the public.

(c) Each judge of compensation claims shall be appointed for a term of 4 years, but during the term of office may be removed by the Governor for cause. Prior to the expiration of a judge’s term of office, the statewide nominating commission shall review the judge’s conduct and determine whether the judge’s performance is satisfactory. Effective July 1, 2002, in determining whether a judge’s performance is satisfactory, the commission shall consider the extent to which the judge has met the requirements of this chapter, including, but not limited to, the requirements of ss. 440.25(1) and (4)(a)-(e), 440.34(2), and 440.442. If the judge’s performance is deemed satisfactory, the commission shall report its finding to the Governor no later than 6 months prior to the expiration of the judge’s term of office. The Governor shall review the commission’s report and may reappoint the judge for an additional 4-year term. If the Governor does not reappoint the judge, the Governor shall inform the commission. The judge shall remain in office until the Governor has appointed a successor judge in accordance with paragraphs (a) and (b). If a vacancy occurs during a judge’s unexpired term, the statewide nominating commission does not find the judge’s performance is satisfactory, or the Governor does not reappoint the judge, the Governor shall appoint a successor judge for a term of 4 years in accordance with paragraph (b).
(d) The Governor may appoint any attorney who has at least 5 years of experience in the practice of law in this state to serve as a judge of compensation claims pro hac vice in the absence or disqualification of any full-time judge of compensation claims or to serve temporarily as an additional judge of compensation claims in any area of the state in which the Governor determines that a need exists for such an additional judge. However, an attorney who is so appointed by the Governor may not serve for a period of more than 120 successive days.
(e) The director of the Division of Administrative Hearings may receive or initiate complaints, conduct investigations, and dismiss complaints against the Deputy Chief Judge and the judges of compensation claims on the basis of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The director may recommend to the Governor the removal of the Deputy Chief Judge or a judge of compensation claims or recommend the discipline of a judge whose conduct during his or her term of office warrants such discipline. For purposes of this section, the term “discipline” includes reprimand, fine, and suspension with or without pay. At the conclusion of each investigation, the director shall submit preliminary findings of fact and recommendations to the judge of compensation claims who is the subject of the complaint. The judge of compensation claims has 20 days within which to respond to the preliminary findings. The response and the director’s rebuttal to the response must be included in the final report submitted to the Governor.
(3) The Deputy Chief Judge shall establish training and continuing education for new and sitting judges.
(4) The Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims shall adopt rules to effect the purposes of this section. Such rules shall include procedural rules applicable to workers’ compensation claim resolution and uniform criteria for measuring the performance of the office, including, but not limited to, the number of cases assigned and disposed, the age of pending and disposed cases, timeliness of decisionmaking, extraordinary fee awards, and other data necessary for the judicial nominating commission to review the performance of judges as required in paragraph (2)(c). The workers’ compensation rules of procedure approved by the Supreme Court apply until the rules adopted by the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims pursuant to this section become effective.
(5) Not later than December 1 of each year, the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims shall issue a written report to the Governor, the House of Representatives, the Senate, The Florida Bar, and the statewide nominating commission summarizing the amount, cost, and outcome of all litigation resolved in the previous fiscal year; summarizing the disposition of mediation conferences, the number of mediation conferences held, the number of continuances granted for mediations and final hearings, the number and outcome of litigated cases, the amount of attorney’s fees paid in each case according to order year and accident year, and the number of final orders not issued within 30 days after the final hearing or closure of the hearing record; and recommending changes or improvements to the dispute resolution elements of the Workers’ Compensation Law and regulations. If the Deputy Chief Judge finds that judges generally are unable to meet a particular statutory requirement for reasons beyond their control, the Deputy Chief Judge shall submit such findings and any recommendations to the Legislature.
History.s. 45, ch. 17481, 1935; CGL 1936 Supp. 5966(43); s. 2, ch. 57-245; s. 1, ch. 61-133; s. 1, ch. 63-179; s. 1, ch. 63-275; s. 1, ch. 65-541; s. 1, ch. 67-515; s. 2, ch. 67-554; s. 1, ch. 69-201; ss. 17, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 1, ch. 70-313; s. 1, ch. 71-290; s. 20, ch. 74-197; s. 3, ch. 74-363; s. 22, ch. 75-209; ss. 14, 23, ch. 78-300; ss. 35, 124, ch. 79-40; ss. 19, 21, ch. 79-312; s. 17, ch. 80-236; s. 16, ch. 83-305; s. 8, ch. 84-267; s. 10, ch. 86-171; ss. 23, 43, ch. 89-289; ss. 39, 56, ch. 90-201; ss. 37, 52, ch. 91-1; s. 34, ch. 91-46; s. 40, ch. 93-415; s. 74, ch. 96-418; s. 11, ch. 98-174; s. 26, ch. 2001-91; s. 46, ch. 2002-194; s. 16, ch. 2002-236; s. 66, ch. 2004-5.