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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Impartiality: Cornerstone of the justice system

The cornerstone of the justice system is judicial impartiality. Impartiality is essential for fairness and due process. The NJ Code of Conduct for Judges of Compensation NJAC 12:235-10.1 et seq. - Appendix, mandates impartiality of the judiciary.

In a recent workers' compensation case, the Appellate Division reversed an order dismissing with prejudice a claim petition and a motion for medical and temporary disability benefits. 

The court concluded the judge of compensation denied petitioner's due process rights by determining at the outset of case, and based solely on petitioner's affidavit supporting his motion for medical and temporary disability benefits, that petitioner was a "multiple liar" who lacked credibility.

During the numerous subsequent proceedings in the matter, and without hearing any testimony from petitioner, the judge repeatedly found petitioner was a liar and, at one point, found petitioner's lack of credibility rendered it unnecessary to hear to any evidence on the merits of petitioner's claim.

Judge Vernoia, J.A.D., writing for the three judge apellate court panel, stated, “The notion that a case where the credibility of the witnesses is an issue and the underlying facts are disputed can be decided without the need to "hear the evidence" is inconsistent with the fundamental fairness to which every litigant in every litigated matter is entitled.” “There is no requirement a petitioner first establish he or she is honest before obtaining a hearing on a claim petition. It is fundamental that credibility issues are determined only after a full hearing where the petitioner and respondent present their witnesses and testimony.” 

The Appellate Division reversed the dismissal of the claim petition and denial of the motion for medical and temporary disability benefits, and remanded the case for further proceedings before a different judge.

McGory v. SLS Landscaping, ___ N.J. Super___, ___A3d.____, 2020 WL 2267040 Decided May 8, 2020 [Approved for Publication]

Other Articles of Interest

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation
Twitter: jongelman
LinkedIn: JonGelman
LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group
Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters

Updated: 05/08/2020