Judges are people too. If a worker’s compensation claim is disputed in Wisconsin, the process will proceed to a hearing before for an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ listens to the hearing testimony, reviews the exhibits, weighs the evidence, and issues an Order on the case. The ALJ decision is subject to review by the Labor and Industry Review Commission.
A worker does not decide which Judge will decide the case. Judges are randomly assigned to cases at hearing locations throughout Wisconsin. Judges, of course, each have their own personalities, skill-sets, and manners for holding hearings. Sometimes those varying methods and mannerisms can create confusion or frustration for attorneys, injured workers, or employers.
The Department recently issued a new set of Uniform Performance Standards to provide a basic set of principles to govern the conduct of Administrative Law Judges. Whether these are guidelines for internal Departmental performance reviews or broader guidelines governing ethics or complaints from outside attorneys remains to be seen. As of now, all those involved with the worker’s compensation system should be aware of the “expected” standards from the Judges deciding these cases.