For the past year, there has been a legal battle between Gov. Mark Sanford and the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. The lawsuit centers around the governor’s mandate for using American Medical Association impairment guides and has made its way to the state supreme court.
If approved, a settlement between Sanford and the Workers’ Comp Commission would erase executive orders the governor began issuing last September that mandated the strict use of the guides or other objective criteria when the commission issues disability awards.
One of the orders, in particular, gives the appearance to some folks that the governor is blurring the line between the executive and judicial branches.
I offered my thoughts on the story “S.C. Battle over Executive Orders Far From Finished,” which was published today:
Both an attorney for Monaco and J. Preston “Pete” Strom Jr., the new president of the South Carolina Association of Justice (formerly of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association), predicted Wednesday the fight in state or federal court could be prolonged.
“By continuing to demand that the commission provide him with copies of their rulings in specific cases, the governor is continuing to improperly interject himself into judicial proceedings to control the outcome,” Kathryn Williams, Monaco’s attorney, said in a statement.
“The clear message is that he intends to continue to try to intimidate the commissioners since he has already threatened to fire those who do not rule the way he wants,” she said.
Strom said he is asking attorneys for Sanford and the injured workers to enter into mediation to try and head off a prolonged fight over the constitutional questions, which center on whether Sanford’s control of the commission denies them due process.
“I don’t think the governor understands that his actions give the appearance that he is trying to manipulate the judicial system,” Strom said. “The instinct to fight for judicial independence is in every attorney’s DNA.
“Hopefully, the politics will move to another topic and the lawyers will calm down,” he said. “Until that happens, I see this as being a tough-fought fight.”