My statistical analysis last week from the CHRO Annual Report certainly has generated a lot of interest and comments thus far. Part of my remarks focused on the caseload that each human rights referee has (or, in this case, doesn’t have) considering the number of cases pending).
Several CHRO Human Rights Referees drafted a response. I repeat it here in full:
What we think gets lost in translation is that the cases we referees administer – both CHRO and Whistleblower retaliation – get hands-on attention by the assigned presiding referee from certification or filing (WBR) right through final disposition. The assigned referee takes control of the docket, schedules all necessary proceedings, sets the parameters of discovery and makes rulings on the scope thereof. Jurisdictional dispositive motions are often filed on issues as erudite as the first amendment or as practical as res judicata, and can result in legal rulings of thirty pages or more. Pre-hearing conferences (often protracted) identify the witnesses and exhibits for the public hearing to come, and the hearing itself is virtually indistinguishable from a courtside trial (state or federal).
Parallel to the duties of the presiding referee are the duties of the designated settlement referee assigned to settlement efforts. Settlement efforts commence shortly after certification and sometimes continue throughout the life of the case, resulting in the ultimate settlement of a majority of the cases certified to public hearing.
For fiscal year 2009-2010 the referees conducted 209 conferences, four hearings in damages and the cited seven public hearings (trials) over 54 trial days. We also ruled on 467 procedural and substantive motions. We resolved a total of 66 certified discrimination cases and 27 whistleblower retaliation cases, principally through the aforementioned settlement endeavors and dispositive memoranda of dismissal. In discrimination settlements alone over $500,000.00 was obtained for claimants in fiscal 2009-2010, and this number does not include the many settlements the terms of which are protected by confidentiality agreements.
The quality of our legal analysis is confirmed by the superior courts’ dismissals of all ten administrative appeals of referee decisions issued during the past fiscal year.
September 9, 2010
J. Allen Kerr, Jr., Chief Human Rights Referee
Jon P. FitzGerald, Human Rights Referee
Thomas C. Austin, Jr., Human Rights Referee
The comment raises a number of valid questions: How do you measure "success" at the hearing stage? Is the Human Rights Referee system an effective use of resources? Is this process worth continuing or reforming?
As I noted in my earlier post, my review of the statistics is not criticism of those who work for the CHRO; rather, it is intended to continue a discussion on whether the CHRO is structured in the best way possible to safeguard against discrimination.