When a party to a PA workers’ compensation litigation receives a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), the party can file an appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB). If a party is not successful before the WCAB, then the party can file an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. The losing party at that level can request an appeal to the Supreme Court of PA, but whether the appeal is accepted by the Supreme Court is discretionary with the Court.
Oral argument is available on every case before the WCAB, even before briefs are submitted (though the parties can waive the right to oral argument if they wish). At the Commonwealth Court and Supreme Court levels, however, the Courts decide whether they want oral argument (typically requested only on novel or complicated issues), and the arguments would be after the briefs are submitted.
At least, that’s how it was. We were just notified by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry that a change is being proposed to the rules regarding oral argument before the WCAB. There are two basic elements looking to be changed. First, the briefs would be submitted before any oral argument would be done (so the WCAB Commissioners could know the case before hearing the oral arguments cold). Second, mirroring the higher courts, the use of oral argument would be discretionary with the WCAB, reserved for novel or complex issues.
While we do enjoy oral argument, and the opportunity to shape the case before the WCAB Commissioners, we must admit that the elimination of the oral arguments in routine cases could make the system more efficient and lead to faster WCAB decisions.