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New Downstate Arbitration Regions Announced

By Christopher S. Crawford

Under the new reform act, six downstate Arbitration regions have been announced. The new regions take effect January 1, 2012. The regions are:

  • Collinsville, Mt. Vernon, Herrin
  • Quincy, Springfield, Urbana
  • Bloomington, Kewanee, Peoria
  • Geneva, Joliet, Ottawa
  • Rockford, Waukegan, Woodstock
  • Wheaton (3 Chicago Arbitrators will be assigned to handle the Wheaton call)

Three Arbitrators will appear at each region site. Cases, including emergency motions, will be randomly assigned to one of the three Arbitrators in the region. The case and parties will follow their assigned Arbitrator. The legislature provided for the random assignment of arbitrators in order to prevent development of preferential relationships (real or perceived) between arbitrators and certain attorneys who regularly attend a particular hearing site. However, this fails to recognize the reality that attorneys who practice workers’ compensation travel to a number of hearing sites and become well acquainted with many arbitrators. Further, accident location determines where the case is heard. Forum shopping is not possible as it may be in civil litigation.

The call cycles will revert to ninety days replacing the current sixty day call cycle. This means parties and witnesses participating in a 19(b) and 8(a) proceeding will be required to travel if they require an immediate hearing before their assigned arbitrator.

We share our clients’ concerns that this change poses logistical difficulties to assemble witnesses at locations that may be far from the employee home and employee business. These concerns will likely outweigh any measurable benefit achieved from the random assignment of arbitrators.

Originally published in the Fall 2011 edition of Quinn Quarterly.