7-2-12; Did the State of Illinois just “fire” several veteran Arbitrators?

For reasons we don’t know and still don’t understand, last year the law was drafted to give Arbitrators one to three year “terms” of office. Due to the date of the legislation creating the terms, the one-year terms actually ended in way less than one year. This group were put in the lucky status of randomly getting one-year terms that ended yesterday.

Ø  Peter Akemann of Kane County;

Ø  George Andros of Cook County;

Ø  Gerald Granada of Cook County;

Ø  Doug Holland of LaSalle County;

Ø  Nancy Lindsay of Morgan County;

Ø  Jacqueline Kinnaman of Cook County;

Ø  Stephen Mathis of Sangamon County;

Ø  Neva Neal Mundstock of Sangamon County;

Ø  Peter O’Malley of DuPage County;

Ø  Brandon Zanotti of Jackson County and

Ø  Maureen Pulia of Cook County.

Understanding we don’t agree with the politics of some of these folks (and they don’t necessarily agree with ours, as is their right), we assure our readers they are knowledgeable, honest and professional hearing officers. We think their job situation is now completely blurred.

A reader advised Section 13 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act contains a holdover clause allowing Commissioners to continue sitting until a successor is appointed. Section 13 has this language:

The term of office of each member of the Commission holding office on the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1989 is abolished, but the incumbents shall continue to exercise all of the powers and be subject to all of the duties of Commissioners until their respective successors are appointed and qualified.

On June 29, 2012, Governor Quinn signed HB 1084 which says no “Commission” appointee can sit longer than 60 calendar days after their term expires or until a new appointment whichever comes first. Most legal observers feel this means Commissioners serve until a successor is appointed with a 60-day limit. No one is sure if “Commission” appointee might include or implicitly exclude the Arbitration staff because they aren’t specifically mentioned.

In contrast to Section 13 of the IL WC Act, Section 14 setting up the appointment of Arbitrators has no such “holdover” clause as the bolded language above—the language clearly was omitted by Illinois legislators. The Arbitrators have “terms” and the terms are up based on a simple reading of the legislature. Therefore, if the Arbitrators listed above have terms that ended yesterday and they are not reappointed and confirmed by the IL Senate by Monday, we have any number of important questions:

1.    Will they have jobs or an official position?

2.    Will the State keep paying them?

3.    Do they have statutory authority to do anything if they don’t hold an official position?

4.    Are their decisions void, as being without authority?

5.    What about the decisions for claims they heard before July 1, 2012?

6.    Do they have authority to sign them or does another arbitrator have to review the record and write the decision?

We were advised the IWCC Chairman and the Governor’s Office believes these Arbitrators still have jobs. We view that as misleading. There is no one who can answer these questions other than a judge who is reviewing the legislation in response to a claim filed before them. At present, all Arbitration decisions by these hearing officers may be “voidable” if a judge or judges were to find they have no statutory authority to decide a claim. Please also note our Illinois legislature isn’t in session and would have to be brought back to session to change the legislation for the Governor to consider. We assure all of you that isn’t going to happen.

We aren’t thrilled to report this uncertainty to our readers but we do consider it an important development for all of you to understand. This article was researched and written by both Matthew A. Wrigley and your editor. Matt can be reached any time at mwrigley@keefe-law.com. We appreciate your thoughts and comments.