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Federal Court Rejects Review of Workers’ Compensation Judge’s Alleged Gross Judicial Misconduct

A complaint filed by an injured worker who sought Federal Court review of a NJ Workers’ Compensation Judge for alleged gross misconduct was dismissed. The Court held that it lacked the authority to review the matter.

The injured worker, who had filed an action for temporary and medical benefits before the NJ agency, was previously awarded by the Division of Workers’ Compensation 20% of the right wrist and 20% of permanent partial total for residuals of a “contusion, strain, tendonitis, and synovitis of the hand. "

In a complaint filed in the Federal Court, pro se, the injured worker alleged, “…Plaintiff asserts that the actions and inactions of the Department of Labor, the Division of Workers' Compensation, and specifically the Workers' Compensation judges violated her right to due process of law under the Constitution of the United States …..Plaintiff sought damages in the amount of $5 million.”

The complaint alleged, among other items, that, "....the Workers' Compensation hearing and trial judges engaged in gross judicial misconduct by: (1) conducting hearings in Plaintiff's absence, (2) adjourning hearings without good cause, (3) relying on fraudulent and factually inaccurate medical evidence to reach its determination, and (4) ordering an independent medical exam without Plaintiff's consent and without a court order."

Judge Greenway, rejected review of the matter based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. “The Rooker-Feldman doctrine, derived from Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 44 S.Ct. 149, 68 L.Ed. 362 (1923), and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 103 S.Ct. 1303, 75 L.Ed.2d 206 (1983), bars lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over an action that is “the functional equivalent of an appeal from a state court judgment.” Marran v. Marran, 376 F.3d 143, 149 (3d Cir.2004). The Supreme Court restated the Rooker-Feldman doctrine in Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d 454 (2005).”

The court reasoned , that “Whether the Workers' Compensation judges erred in holding a hearing in Plaintiff's absence, adjourning the hearings without notifying Plaintiff, or relying on “fraudulent” evidence at trial is an issue that must be decided by the New Jersey courts through the appeals process. In short, Plaintiff failed to avail herself of the proper appellate process.”

Hogg’s v. New Jersey, 2008 WL 5272372 (D.N.J. 2008) Decided December 16, 2008.

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