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Raises sought for workers' comp judges

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Debate over legal costs in the workers’ compensation insurance system in the 2019 legislative session may transcend what employers and injured workers have to pay in fees.

The state Division of Administrative Hearings has asked for about $2 million in additional funding for salaries and benefits in the upcoming year to “adequately compensate judges of compensation claims,” according to budget documents.

Judges of compensation claims are paid $124,564 annually, with the chief judge earning slightly more.

In its legislative budget request, the Division of Administrative Hearings said it wants to increase the judges’ salaries to $151,822 and pay the chief judge $152,822.

In 2016, The Florida Bar conducted an analysis that found the average income for a partner, shareholder or member of a law firm is $166,585.

Judges of compensation claims are gubernatorial appointees, selected from a list submitted by the Statewide Judicial Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims.

Senate President Bill Galvano has said he wants to examine the legal costs in the workers’ compensation system during the 2019 legislative session.

The focus has been on the long-controversial issue of fees paid to attorneys who represent injured workers.