September 18, 2015
If I had an award to give for unambiguous judicial writing, it would go to Associate Justice Janis M. Berry whose opinion in Ellis v. DIA is well worth reading. It is as clear as something large seen from very close up by a person with perfect vision.
The plaintiff, James Ellis, represents workers compensation claimants. To help injured workers find lawyers to steer them through the workers compensation system, the law allows claimants to collect their legal fees in addition to compensation. Before signing off on lawyers’ fees, the administrative judges at the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) have to review the bills. The reasons for this requirement are too obvious to state. But Attorney Ellis claimed that DIA judges have no right to scrutinize his bills.
Attorney Ellis has visited the Court of Appeals quite often, it seems, but his latest sashay was too much for Justice Berry, who described it as “just one small part of a pattern of Ellis’s frivolous litigation in advancing legally unfounded claims on appeal.” With regard to the law’s provision of legal fees for claimants, she wrote that although important it is “not carte blanche to an open credit line for an attorney to draw upon without validity.”
The decision ends by calling the appeal “frivolous and worthy of sanctions” followed by words that no attorney ever wants to read: “[W]e refer this case to the Board of Bar Overseers.”