Saturday, January 15, 2005

Commissioner for the Public? Activist Judge?

Matt Blunt has appointed Bill Ringer to the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission. In a nutshell, the LIRC is a Court of Appeals for workers' compensation claims, and Ringer's role there will be to "represent the public".

Blunt has an odd idea of who the public is. Bill Ringer has spent most of his legal career defending insurance companies. His law firm, Evans & Dixon, boasts on its home page that "Evans & Dixon, L.L.C. remains dedicated to representing the insurance industry and the self insured, just as we have done for more than 55 years."

More specifically, Bill Ringer has helped the insurance companies avoid paying Missourians injured by their employers in
cases involving amputations, assaults and violent acts, back injuries, body systems, bruises and contusions, carpal tunnel syndrome, chemical burns, contact with objects and equipment, cumulative trauma, cuts and lacerations, falls, fatalities, fires and explosions, fractures, harmful substances or environments, head injuries, heart attacks, heat burns, infectious diseases, lower extremities, multiple traumatic injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, neck injuries, paraplegia/quadriplegia, permanent disability, poisoning, pulmonary disorders, respiratory conditions, skin diseases and disorders, sprains, strains, breaks, tears, tendonitis, transportation incidents and upper extremities.
I'm not making this up, folks - this is a quote from his biography at the law firm's web page. When Matt Blunt chose someone to represent the public, he apparently interpreted "the public" to mean "insurance companies" instead of people suffering from "amputations, assaults and violent acts, back injuries, etc.

Bill Ringer has not limited his service to Matt Blunt's "public" - meaning the insurance companies, of course - to judicial arena, though. He has spent "countless hours" (sidenote - nobody is better at keeping count of hours than an insurance defense lawyer) trying to get the legislature to pass a bill radically restricting the ability of workers to recover for their injuries. (.pdf link) This bill was so insanely anti-working-Missourian that not even the wing-nuts in the Republican Missouri legislature could stomach it.

Now that Bill Ringer has taken a quasi-judicial seat on a commission that reviews workers' compensation cases, will he be an "activist judge"? Will he seek to achieve through his opinions what he could not achieve in the legislature?


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