Friday, March 1, 2002
Opponents Say Disability Claim May Make Renetzky Unfit for Bench
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Deputy District Attorney Hank Goldberg and eldercare attorney Joseph “Joe” Deering said their opponent for a Los Angeles Superior Court judgeship, Donald Renetzky, may not be fit to serve in light of a determination that he is 100 percent disabled in his job as a workers’ compensation judge.
The finding of total disability by a workers’ compensation judge raises “grave concerns as to [Renetzky’s] fitness to serve as a Superior Court judge,” Goldberg said yesterday.
Deering said he was surprised Renetzky was claiming total disability. He said he believes Renetzky is somehow taking advantage of the very system by both claiming to be 100 percent disabled and continuing to serve as an administrative law judge.
“If you are claiming 100 percent disability, it seems very clear to me that you are making a claim that you are unable to work,” Deering said. “If you are unable to work, how can you be a judge?”
Both Goldberg and Deering said voters have a right to know about Renetzky’s claim of disability before they go to the polls March 5.
“Obviously there is something wrong in what he is doing,” Deering said.
The MetNews reported Wednesday that Renetzky was found to be disabled in a workers’ compensation action.
Since becoming an administrative law judge in June 1994, Renetzky has filed a total of eight claims with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board maintaining that he suffered numerous injuries while on the job.
An Aug. 16, 2001 order signed by Administrative Law Judge Charles A. Regnell of San Bernardino states that Renetzky and the State Compensation Insurance Fund entered into a stipulation that rated him 100 percent permanently disabled.
Last August’s handwritten order awards Renetzky $490 a week for life.
Workers who are determined by the workers’ compensation system to be 100 percent permanently disabled are awarded two-thirds of their average weekly wages for life, with a maximum of $490 a week. The weekly award is tax-free.
The order also requires SCIF to pay for treatment of Renetzky’s diabetes, a preexisting condition.
Renetzky’s case is considered to be open and inactive, without compliance with the final portion of the order—that the insurer prepare and submit the final injury and permanent disability stipulations within 30 days.
Renetzky told the MetNews Tuesday that he was not aware that he had been rated 100 percent disabled and referred further questions on the cases to his lawyer, Kenneth Rowen.
Rowen did not return calls for comment.
Renetzky was rated “qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association while Goldberg and Deering were both rated “well qualified.”
Gerald Chaleff, chair of LACBA’s Judicial Elections Evaluation Committee, said the County Bar is looking into the matter to decide whether future action should be taken on Renetzky’s rating.
If a Los Angeles Superior Court judge applies for total disability, he or she retires, Superior Court Spokesperson Pat Kelly said.
But a workers’ compensation judge does not have that same retirement requirement, Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board spokesman Rich Stephens said.
A workers’ compensation judge can be found 100 percent disabled and still continue to work as a judge, Stephens advised.
Fred Huebscher, Renetzky’s campaign consultant, said Renetzky is not being asked to leave his current job and has always been rated satisfactorily by his employers. Huebscher said that Renetzky’s condition restricts him from doing a lot of walking, but that the requirement doesn’t conflict with being a judge, a mainly sedentary occupation.
He remarked that there are many people who receive either private disability pension or workers’ compensation benefits and continue to work.
“People get work comp all the time and continue to work at some job,” Huebscher said.
Deering, Renetzky and Goldberg are vying for Los Angeles Superior Court Office 2. The three will meet Sunday in West Covina in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company