Comp Judge, Dismissed After Complaints from Pond Lehocky, Restored to Job
Monday, November 25, 2019 | 325 | 0 | 29 min read
The Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission restored a workers' compensation judge to her post — with full back pay — after complaints from a prominent claimants' law firm led to her termination a year ago.
The Civil Service Commission found that complaints from attorneys at Pond Lehocky, the largest workers' comp firm in the state, were without merit, a Philadelphia newspaper reported Friday.
Partners at the firm complained to the governor and his secretary of labor and industry that Judge Andrea McCormick had made too many rulings against injured workers, and that she was dating a well-known insurance defense lawyer.
State investigators then sifted through the judges' emails. She was fired for a number of alleged offenses, including sharing nonpublic information and making online purchases from her office computer.
The Civil Service Commission, though, ruled Thursday that Department of Labor and Industry officials had not presented sufficient evidence to support McCormick's termination. There was no proof that the relationship with insurance attorney Ted Carpenter had “affected her ability to perform her duties impartially or diligently, nor is there any evidence of impropriety,” the commission wrote in its order.
McCormick’s firing had raised concerns within the legal community, including among some judges, that connected law firms could use their political clout to influence the courts through back channels, the newspaper reported. But Pond Lehocky attorneys had said McCormick's rulings showed a years-long pattern of bias against claimants.
Sam Pond, managing partner at Pond Lehocky, said in a statement Friday that the firm had reported its concerns to the labor department because there is no judicial review body for workers’ compensation judges.
“We simply asked that someone investigate the matter of impartiality. That was our ethical obligation and responsibility to the system and our clients,” Pond said. "The number one priority for us was and always will be our clients. We will continue to stand up for them and make sure they have equal and fair access to justice.”