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Sarlo Wants Workers’ Comp Judges To Receive Greater Scrutiny

TRENTON – Senator Paul A. Sarlo today said he wants Governor Corzine to include Workers’ Compensation Judges in the same pre-nomination review system which the State and county bar associations undertake to assess the qualifications of nominees for judicial and county prosecutor positions.

“Adding this level of scrutiny can only make a good system better,” said Senator Sarlo, who as Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee led a review by the panel last week on ways to improve the workers compensation system in New Jersey.

The confidential review process, known as the Hughes Compact because it was established during the second term of Governor Richard J. Hughes in 1968, results in a report to the Governor from the State Bar Association determining whether it views a nominee “qualified” or “not qualified.”

The review process in the compact takes a “minimum of 20 calendar days” from the time a nominee’s name and completed questionnaire are submitted to the State Bar by the Governor’s Office. If the Governor proceeds to nominate someone deemed “ not qualified,” the State Bar Association would be authorized to explain its assessment before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“New Jersey’s judicial system is considered to be one of the finest, if not the finest judicial systems in the United States,” said Senator Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic. “It just makes good sense to apply the same preliminary review standards to workers’ compensation judges that apply to other State judges and prosecutors.”

In a letter to Governor Corzine (attached), Senator Sarlo said the current evaluation process for selecting Workers’ Compensation Judges could be improved by including “formal participation” of attorneys involved in workers’ comp issues.

“The involvement of such professionals will enhance the quality of the nominees and increase the confidence the residents of the State have in (Workers’ Comp.) judges by insulating the process from political considerations,” Senator Sarlo wrote.

Governor Corzine re-affirmed his Administration’s participation with the State Bar Association in the Hughes Compact in an agreement signed May 15, 2006.

Senator Sarlo’s recommendation to Governor Corzine was his first formal request following his committee’s hearing on May 5th. He also said he would support developing legislation to reduce red tape in the workers’ comp system, improve the classification system to ensure fairness, increase penalties for employers who refuse to obtain insurance and ensure prompt payment to injured workers.