Bulletin 95-1

February 3, 1995

Proposed Workers' Compensation Judicial Code of Conduct

The Josephson Institute of Ethics, at the request of the Division of Workers' Compensation, has developed a proposed code of judicial conduct to address the ethical standards applicable to referees in the state workers' compensation system. The proposed Standards of Conduct will supplement the California Code of Judicial Conduct, which alrelady applies to all judges in the state, including workers' compensation referees.

DWC plans to scheduled public hearings on these proposed rules, as well as on a set of regulations that will provide an enforcement mechanism, within the next 30 days.

The Josephson Institute, a widely respected authority on ethics located in Marina del Rey, was retained to develop the standards after a lengthy and thorough investigation of allegations of misconduct and other ethical violations by certain judges and referees last year. One of the results of that investigation was the conclusion that more precise and detailed guidelines as to what constitutes unethical or unacceptable conduct within the workers' compensation judicial system were needed.

In developing the proposed standards, the Josephson Institute conducted over 40 interviews of persons working in the workers'

compensation system, conducted an extensive written survey, and facilitated three full-day discussions with more than one hundred workers' compensation referees who work in the Division of Workers' Compensation. This exercise identified significant areas of concern which are addressed by the rules and guidelines recommended by the Institute.

The rules cover such subjects as the duty to report misconduct, integrity of court records, ex parte communications, socializing with workers'

compensation practitioners, financial interest in educational programs, use of names in promotional materials, diligence, honesty and decorum.

The adoption of regulations enforcing the requirement that judges and referees subscribe to the California Code of Judicial Conduct and not, directly or indirectly, engage in conduct contrary to that code, was called for in Assembly Bill 1252, authored by Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy in 1993.