As a Maine lawyer and professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law, I was surprised and disappointed to learn of Workers’ Compensation Board Executive Director Paul Sighinolfi’s position on workers’ compensation judge reassignment.

I am at a loss to understand how an adjudicative official could conclude that there was nothing wrong with reassigning a judge because one side of a dispute claimed the judge was unfair, without providing any proof of unfairness. My word, if we did that in every area of law, we would never get to the merits of cases!

We would spend all of our time reassigning, and arguing about reassigning. I have seen no evidence of wrongdoing by the targeted judge. Presumably – leaving ethics to one side – if the judge had been deciding cases in a legally incorrect fashion he would have been regularly reversed by the Law Court.

If the director’s position is that he violated no rule, I would respectfully remind him that the right to a neutral decision maker was an animating principle of the enactment of the Magna Carta in the year 1215, and no civilized state has since had the temerity to argue for its reversal. The director may be of the opinion that he did not deprive anyone of a neutral decision maker, but you might forgive injured workers losing cases under the new regime for having a slightly different view. It is my understanding that the NewPage mill’s “win rate” has ticked up a bit in recent times.

The situation does not smell good, even from the Rocky Mountains.

Michael C. Duff

Laramie, Wyo.

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