Many of us in the Workers’ Comp world believe that we are alone in the legal universe.  W/C is so strange that there can be no other realm of the law similar.  Yet, the Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that has very similar parallels to the pending Emma Murray decision.

For capital murder cases, a defendant can choose a private attorney to represent them and have the state pay for it.  Since the public defender is paid by the state, like the judge and the prosecutor, an argument for a conflict of interest can arrive, so Florida pays private attorneys to take such cases.   The private attorney submits her hours in a fee petition to a judge for approval.  The prosecutor can object to the hours and costs if they feel the time is cumulative, irrelevant, or excessive.   

Sound familiar?

To curb excessive fees paid to private attorneys on capital cases, the Florida Legislature passed a law, section 27.711, capping those fees under a fee schedule. 

Once again, sound familiar?

In Olive v. Maas, the private defense attorney sought fees in excess of the statutory guideline fee.  With a vote of 4-3 (Quince, Pariente, Anstead, and Lewis vs. Bell, Cantero, and Wells), the Supremes found the statute unconstitutional and that a judge has discretion to determine if a private attorney in capital cases are entitled to a fee above the statutory guideline.

Granted, capital murder cases hold a higher priority to the Supremes than W/C suits, but the four corners of the case are very similar to what the Claimant argues in Emma Murray.  And, the split of the Court is what many of us observed to be the sides taken during the Murray oral arguments.

A strange parallel between the two, don’t you think?

UPDATE: Emma Murray was decided today (October 23) and you can read my analysis of the decision here.