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This makes zero sense.

A totally unqualified person has been appointed to California’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The person in question is not a work comp person, legal scholar, labor advocate, or claims expert, but an 80 year old retired music teacher whose sole regulatory experience is a brief stint on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board.

Mr Gaffney, undated photo from facebook

Mr Gaffney has no apparent experience, education, or training that in any way qualifies him for any role in the workers’ comp system, much less a role as significant as an Appeals Court Judge. He is a high school classmate of retiring Gov Jerry Brown, who reportedly ran into Mr Gaffney at an event, and after a discussion decided to help him out by appointing him to a very lucrative position.

The California Applicant Attorneys Association seems to think this is a good idea, citing Mr Gaffney’s “heart”:

Getting beyond legalisms and into the heart and humanity of the workers we represent could be music to our ears.

I don’t see the logic behind the CAAA’s statement that Mr Gaffney’s decades of involvement in choral music mean he is a “person who has dedicated himself to the hearts of ordinary people – working class immigrants.” Sounds like he has dedicated himself to their ears, not their hearts…

If intrinsic goodness, love, dedication to the downtrodden, and pureness of heart are key criteria, the sainted Mother Teresa would be a perfect candidate.

Further, this is an Appeals Board – one where Mr Gaffney will be involved in decisions that will set precedent. Where he will have to adjudicate complicated issues around causation, apportionment (!), penalties for unreasonableness, assignment of liability, exclusive remedy and the like.

This is really complicated stuff that attorneys with decades of experience struggle with.

No matter how wonderful one’s heart is, it is no substitute for knowledge and experience.

If you are hurt on the job and have a disagreement with your employer about your claim, you very much want the arbiter of that disagreement to:

  1. Know a lot about workers’ compensation
  2. Have a lot of experience dealing with cases like your’s
  3. Understand the laws so they can give a final ruling that won’t keep you in limbo

If the arbiter isn’t all of the above, you may well be treated unfairly, have your case appealed to an even higher court, and not get things resolved for years.

What does this mean for you?

The appointment will be reviewed by the California State Senate Rules Committee.  Encourage this body to reject the appointment. 


10 thoughts on “This makes zero sense.”

    1. Darrell – thanks for the comment. After spending most of a week in California, you’ve got a great state going. Massive infrastructure investment, lots of people coming in, successful businesses growing, great weather.

      and the mountain biking is pretty good too.

      Compare California to Kansas, which has gone down an opposite path.

      1. It is certainly is a beautiful state and we love it here. Newsom will be a disaster unfortunately. Just look as SF. I am hopeful the state does not decline further. Glad you enjoyed Cali…we love San Diego now..great change
        from the Bay Area!

          1. Hi Joe – I know for a fact we are different politically and that’s perfectly fine. Of course California has a strong economy and it’s beautiful, but you cannot deny Sacramento is broken.

            I once watched a forum with the Former Governors (on both sides) going back decades. When asked about the state of California they all agreed the system is a complete disaster. You have high taxes, high costs and mass exodus which is going to make things worse Quality of life was last in some areas from a recent study. The middle class has been hammered and Sacramento has been overrun by corrupt bullet train starve the farmers bureaucrats on all side of the isle. The state is strong in many ways but taxed to death. The fact that JB appoints someone like this to the WC appeals board speaks volumes about Sacramento. I’m a native and I’m hopeful that the state can swing to the middle again. #Takebackcalifornia

          2. Darrell – thanks for the note. We are all different politically, so no issues with that.

            We will have to agree to disagree. This fascination with the awfulness of taxes continues to amaze me. As one who grew up in third world countries, I’m a lot less troubled by taxes than by the government haters who seem to think the government can’t do anything right. In fact, most work pretty well.

            I’d also suggest we tried the cut taxes to the bone in kansas and the results speak for themselves.

            Re migration – it’s not that simple.

            Families with kids and those with only a high school education predominate among those moving from California to its top destination states (Texas, Arizona, and Nevada). College-educated 18 to 35 year olds led the way among those moving to California from its top feeder states (New York, Illinois, and New Jersey). Folks moving to CA are more educated and make more money than those leaving.

            All governments have inefficiencies – almost as many as large health plans, insurers, or other organizations.

  1. It makes news when it is California, but not everywhere, I guess. Here in Georgia we have a “proud” history of appointing lawyers who have never tried a workers’ compensation case or only have a history of advocacy for insurers or the Chamber of Commerce and/or absolutely no trial or judicial experience at all.

  2. Yeah I believe government works poorly and less government is optimal. So yes we will have to agree to disagree :)

    1. Well, you can always go to Kansas to see just how poorly governments can work.

      Or Denmark where people are quite satisfied and happy and do well with a very active government.

      Government is us. It is our responsibility.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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