Unfortunately, the New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration, the state agency charged to resolve disputed workers' compensation cases, is down two workers' compensation judges. There are only three workers' compensation judges currently working at the Administration. This will most likely delay resolution of workers' compensation cases for some time into the future.
- Judge Tony Couture gave notice of his resignation on 1/1/2022. He left the Administration at the end of November. The interviews of applicants to replace him were only recently finished. The best guesstimate is that his replacement will be on the bench in two to three months from now. It's surprising to me that we don't know who his replacement will be over three months since Judge Couture gave his notice.
- Judge Rachel Bayless, an experienced and well-respected workers' compensation judge, was for some reason not renewed for another five year term. I believe the interviews of the applicants to replace her are still being conducted. The best guesstimate for her replacement is three to four months from now.
- The Administration is also interviewing for a new judge position in Las Cruces. I think that person will be handling cases in the next two to three months. With the Las Cruces judge, there will be a total of six workers' compensation judges at the Workers' Compensation Administration.
Some of the cases that were assigned to Judges Couture and Bayless have been transferred to the remaining three judges. With the additional cases, it is understandable that these three judges will have a tougher time deciding cases as quickly as they have in the past.
The other cases are in limbo waiting to be assigned to one of the new judges. Nothing will happen on these cases until they are assigned to one of the new judges.
I am disappointed with this situation at the Workers' Compensation Administration because in my opinion the Administration exists to meet the main goals of New Mexico's workers' compensation system (some would say the primary goal); the quick and speedy resolution of injured workers' claims for workers' compensation benefits.
With no new judges on the horizon for at least two to three months, many, many workers' compensation claims will be in limbo, and many injured workers will have to wait for their benefits. This is unacceptable.