Thursday, May 12, 2011

UC - unrepresented claimant - duty of referee to develop record

Bellone v. UCBR - May 11l. 2011, - Cmwlth. Court

The Department of Labor’s regulation describes how a hearing must be conducted:

(a) In any hearing the tribunal may examine the parties and their witnesses. Where a party is not represented by counsel the tribunal before whom the hearing is being held should advise him as to his rights, aid him in examining and cross-examining witnesses, and give him every assistance compatible with the impartial discharge of its official duties.

34 Pa. Code §101.21(a).

This Court has stated:

The referee has a responsibility, therefore, to assist a pro se claimant at a hearing so that the facts of the case necessary for a decision may be adequately developed to ‘insure that compensation will not be paid in cases in which the claimant is not eligible and that compensation will be paid if the facts, thoroughly developed, entitled the claimant to benefits.’ … The referee, of course, need not advise a party on evidentiary questions or on specific points of law but must act reasonably in assisting in the development of the necessary facts, and any failure to develop an adequate record must be prejudicial to the claimant and not mere harmless error or else a reversal will not be found. Bennet v. UCBR, 445 A.2d 258, 259-260 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1982) (emphasis, citation and footnote deleted). (quoting Robinson v. UCBR, 431 A.2d 378, 380 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1981)).


This case is also summarized at the PLAN Legal Update, which is searchable.

Citing unreported and single-judge Commonwealth Court decisions - 210 Pa. Code § 67.55 (January 1, 2011) Parties may cite an unreported panel decision of the Commonwealth Court issued after January 15, 2008 for its persuasive value, but not as binding precedent.