By Abbie Hudgens, Administrator, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
“What is it that makes us trust our judges? Their independence in office and manner of appointment.”
—John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Unbelievably, six years have already passed since the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims opened its doors.
The original eight judges were appointed after a rigorous application and interview process. Over 70 applications were reduced to 21 in-person interviews and further reduced to 12 second interviews by a panel of industry leaders. This group made recommendations to me. I personally traveled the state to interview the recommended candidates before making the eight appointments.
Since those appointments, one judge retired (Jim Umsted), and another was re-appointed in 2016 for a full six-year term (Judge Josh Baker).
I have closely observed their work and looked for ways to objectively measure their success. Beginning in 2015, we annually surveyed the bar and self-represented litigants on the quality of the judges’ work in categories of legal ability, writing quality, temperament, diligence and impartiality. Throughout the years, they have all maintained ratings in excess of 4.0 on a scale of 5 in those categories. The 2020 survey will be coming to you soon, and I look forward to receiving those results.
The following judges are being considered for reappointment in June:
- Judge Brian Addington, Gray;
- Judge Pamela Johnson, Knoxville;
- Judge Lisa Lowe, Knoxville;
- Judge Allen Phillips, Jackson;
- Judge Deana Seymour, Memphis;
- Chief Judge Kenneth Switzer, Nashville; and
- Judge Thomas Wyatt, Chattanooga.
Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-238(a)(1), I must appoint “qualified individuals to serve as workers’ compensation judges.” I take that duty very seriously. As public servants, we at the Bureau strive for transparency in virtually everything we do. With that in mind, I’m asking for any input you may have regarding the reappointment of any or all of these jurists to assist in the decision-making. Please send your comments to Abbie.Hudgens@tn.gov on or before April 30, 2020.
Thank you in advance.