WI Budget Watch - Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC), Court Reporters under the Axe?

The Wisconsin Law Journal recently reported the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) is slated for elimination in the governor's current budget proposal.

From the commission's website, the "LIRC is an independent Wisconsin administrative agency established to provide a fair and impartial review of the employment law decisions of administrative law judges in cases involving Unemployment Insurance (UI), Worker’s Compensation (WC), and Equal Rights (ER). The commission’s decisions provide consistency, stability, and integrity to the programs for the employers, employees, insurers, and citizens of the State of Wisconsin."  The commission's three members are appointed to serve staggered 6-year terms, and they select a chairperson from their membership to serve for a 2-year period.

The LIRC functions like an appeals court at the administrative law level that can help resolve disputes before they get to court.  Without the LIRC, the concern is that officials from the same divisions as the administrative-law judges will be reviewing their decisions.  The basic argument being that for an appeal to receive a fair hearing it must be before a truly independent body.

There are questions as to how the appeals process would work then?  What happens to LIRC's corpus of decisions that have been compiled since the commission began hearing appeals in 1977?  While they are not precedential, these cases provide policy guidance, and are relevant upon appeal to the court system.  Could division administrators still utilize those cases if the LIRC were eliminated?

Another article in the Wisconsin Law Journal cites concerns about changes to the use of court reporters at worker's compensation hearings.  This particular budget proposal would not require court reporters, as they are now, to be present at worker's compensation hearings.  Instead officials would be allowed to rely on electronic recordings.  Further, the proposal would eliminate four of the seven full-time court reporters who cover all of the state's worker's compensation hearings.

Some involved say this would be a mistake.  A verbatim record is not the same as an audio recording, and transcribing from a digital recording is difficult and expensive.  Court reporters have special training in legal and medical terminology.  They have the experience in the job to tune out external background noises that an audio recording would pick up.

Attorneys agree court reporters play a key role in the court system.  "They also worry that the reliance on sometimes inaudible recordings could cause liability in workers' comp cases to be assigned with the use of inaccurate transcriptions."  Getting it right is important in worker's compensation cases since the dollar amounts involved can be quite large as well.

The current budget process is in the early stages.  Budget listening sessions are being scheduled for constituents to meet with their representatives.  One way to keep track with what is happening is by following The Wheeler ReportThe Wheeler Report is a legislative news service covering the Wisconsin Legislature since 1972.  It tracks all legislation introduced, hearing notices, floor action, and actions by the Governor.  You can find detailed tracking of the Wisconsin biennial budget, including all action by the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee.

Sources:

Erika Strebel, Change LIRC-ing Around The Corner?, Wisconsin Law Journal, 31(9), Mar. 1, 2017, at 1.

Erika Strebel, Say What? Some Proceedings Could Face Future Without Court Reporters, Wisconsin Law Journal, 31(10), Mar. 8, 2017, at 1.

Wisconsin Law Journal (print), Law Library Reference Collection: Ref KFW2447 W57


Submitted by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian on March 15, 2017

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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