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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 6: Senior judges; powers and duties; selection

Section 6. The industrial accident board and the industrial accident reviewing board shall be under the supervision and administrative control of the senior judge. The senior judge shall direct and supervise the activities of all members of the board and the reviewing board. The commissioner shall assign such necessary support staff to the division as he deems necessary. The senior judge shall cause a statistical list to be maintained of all matters heard or conferred on by each board member along with a list of conference orders and decisions filed by each member and all lump sum settlements approved by the reviewing board and at the end of each month shall cause said list to be published forthwith and made available for inspection by the public. Every decision and order of any member of the board and every decision by the reviewing board shall be open to the public. Decisions of the reviewing board shall be indexed and published. Members of the industrial accident board and the industrial accident reviewing board shall be subject to the provisions of chapters two hundred and sixty-eight A and two hundred and sixty-eight B.

There shall be within the department, a division of dispute resolution, under the supervision and direction of a senior judge, who shall be appointed by the commissioner.

The senior judge shall be selected from among the current administrative judges or administrative law judges by the commissioner. The senior judge must possess the following qualifications:

(i) no less than two years of experience as an administrative judge or administrative law judge at the industrial accident board;

(ii) proven knowledge of chapter one hundred and fifty-two, its regulations and other relevant laws;

(iii) demonstrable administrative and management ability; and

(iv) superior writing skills as may be shown by hearing or review board decisions, law review articles or any other appropriate written materials.

The term of any administrative judge or administrative law judge who is appointed to serve as the senior judge under this section shall be coterminous with the governor. The senior judge may be removed by the governor upon the recommendation of the commissioner. The senior judge may appoint, subject to the approval of the commissioner, such personnel as are necessary for the performance of the senior judge's duties.

The senior judge shall be placed in job group M-X, step seven as set forth in section forty-six C of chapter thirty.

There shall be within the division of dispute resolution a conciliation unit. Such unit shall attempt the informal resolution of disputes, review and approve agreements, and perform such other duties as the senior judge may require.

The senior judge shall be responsible for the operation of the division of dispute resolution. The powers and duties of the senior judge shall include, but not be limited to, the following:--

(i) the initial training of newly appointed administrative judges and administrative law judges as to their responsibilities and powers including, but not limited to, the conduct of conferences and hearings, the prompt, clear, and concise writing of orders and decisions and the management of claims to assist workers in their return to work;

(ii) the establishment of an annual workers' compensation judicial training program to instruct all administrative judges or administrative law judges in matters related to their professional development;

(iii) the establishment of criteria, in conjunction with the commissioner, upon which to perform an annual review of each administrative judge and administrative law judge;

(iv) the fair allocation of all claims and complaints to ensure each administrative judge receives a balanced and equitable case load during the calendar year;

(v) the establishment of criteria under which a claimant may claim a hardship and request a conference on the first available date;

(vi) the training, supervision and review of conciliators, and the association, where feasible, of particular conciliators to particular judges for the purpose of fostering more effective conciliation of disputes.

(vii) the senior judge shall accept motions for expedited conferences relating to fraudulent behavior, illegal discontinuance of compensation, catastrophic injuries, medical emergencies, or denials pursuant to section fifteen A of chapter one hundred and fifty-two. Such session shall be held on a weekly basis if necessary. The motions and the procedure at the sessions shall conform to requirements set forth by the senior judge. The motion sessions shall be presided over by an administrative law judge or conciliator selected by the senior judge. If the administrative law judge, administrative judge or conciliator grants the motion for an expedited conference, said conference shall be held within fourteen days.

(viii) the development of a standard form for pre-conference memoranda to be prepared by the parties.