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Court: Ill. Board Began Improperly

March 22, 2002

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ The chairman of a workers compensation board wrongly made temporary appointments to fill vacancies, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday, casting doubt on hundreds of the board’s rulings.

The chairman lacked such power and the governor should have made a permanent appointment to the commission, the court said.

The ruling invalidated a decision by the Illinois Industrial Commission to reduce compensation given to an injured candy factory worker. But the decision could apply to many more cases.

An affidavit showed the panel with the improper members handled 2,341 cases in 1997 and 1998, said Ann-Louise Kleper, an attorney for the injured worker, Pervis Daniels.

Industrial Commission officials would not comment Thursday, saying attorneys were reviewing the decision.

The commission had two panels that decide all workers’ compensation disputes that cannot be settled by an arbitrator. Each panel had three members, who represent business, labor and the public.

The labor position on one panel was filled by professional arbitrators serving in temporary capacities from Sept. 1, 1996, until April 26, 1999, according to a commission spokeswoman. Temporary appointees filled the public position from June 17, 1996, through Aug. 28, 1997.

``For a very extended period, the only commissioner on the panel was one appointed to be a representative of management,″ Kleper said. ``There was no one on the panel representing labor.″

David Menchetti, a lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation, said it could take months to sort out the ruling’s impact.

``If the panel was invalid, then nothing they did was legal or valid,″ he said.

Menchetti said he expects challenges from workers who lost their cases before an improper Industrial Commission panel. Businesses that lost their cases are unlikely to try again with a panel that includes a labor representative.

___

On the Net:

Supreme Court: http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/Uploads.htm

Industrial Commission: http://www.state.il.us/agency/iic

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