Like most of you, I was caught off guard by the news Andrea Roche is resigning from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), effective July 31, 2014.
The announcement this week did not give Commissioner Roche’s reason for resigning, only that she was returning to private practice. We can speculate, but regardless of the reason, her leaving will be a great loss to the Commission and the system in general. Commissioner Roche is a rare blend of intelligence, compassion, objectivity, and savvy.
So, what now? Well, there are several possibilities depending on Governor Nikki Haley’s preference. Anyone named must be approved by the South Carolina Senate, which will not be available to consider the issue until January 2015 at the earliest. Governor Haley can name an interim replacement until approved by the Senate, but that person would be deciding cases until January without Senate approval. The last time that happened, the replacement did not get the approval required by the Senate, and the seat went vacant.
Another approach is to leave the seat vacant until the Senate is in session and submit the nominee’s name to the Senate in the normal course. This, of course, would require the case load be spread over six commissioners rather than seven, but it has been done before. In fact, until the late 1970s, the Commission consisted of just six members. Given that the Commission has become much more efficient over the past few years, and mediations are now a part of the regulations, operating with six commissioners is not a stretch.
Unless Commissioner Roche’s resignation portends a rash of sudden exits by other Commissioners, I suggest Governor Haley can, and should, take her time. Andrea Roche will be hard to replace.