Hello dear readers!
Friday is upon us, the weekend is around the corner, and your humble blogger comes bearing a puzzling panel decision and a confused look upon his handsome and charming face.
The matter of Schwartz v. Ease Entertainment is what yields that panel decision.
Applicant, while on a film set in Georgia, applicant engaged in some activities which, to quote the comedic genius of Seinfeld, yada yada yada, resulted in her conviction for criminal trespass and involuntary manslaughter, which, as a result of a plea bargain under Georgia’s First Offender Act would include a guilty plea, 10 years of probation, and, upon a completion of the probation, no entry of judgment or adjudication of guilt.
She then filed a claim before the WCAB for alleging a psyche injury following the entire ordeal. Defendant raised the defense afforded under Labor Code section 3600(a)(8), which holds, to wit, “injury is not caused by the commission of a felony, or a crime which is punishable as specified in subdivision (b) of Section 17 of the Penal Code, by the injured employee, for which he or she has been convicted.”
The details of the “yada yada yada” aren’t really pertinent – the criminal trial judge in Georgia accepted a guilty plea and applicant stood convicted, but was given leniency by People of Georgia – does the defense apply?
The WCJ and the majority of the WCAB panel found that… NO, it doesn’t apply.
The majority reasoned that because Georgia’s first-offender laws provide that a successful completion of probation results in a conviction status of the defendant not being considered to have a criminal conviction, there was no commission of a felony (yet) and the claim was not barred.
One commissioner dissented, reasoning that “[t]hat applicant was subsequently accorded leniency in her sentencing does not obviate the fact that she was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. I would therefore grant defendant’s Petition for Reconsideration and find applicant’s claim is barred.”
Just to recap the facts – applicant engaged in conduct that resulted in a criminal conviction, and because of a Georgia law, was afforded leniency that the conviction would be expunged upon a successful completion of a 10-year probation.
Just so we’re clear – presumably, a violation of probation would result in the conviction being finalized. At this point, the conviction is on the books and would likely continue to be there until 10 years after the conviction, or March of 2025.
What is the point in 3600(a)(8) if not to punish criminal offenders by depriving them of reaping the benefits of their illegal activities? The punishment of one who murders his or her parents is not subject to leniency now that the criminal is an orphan. Nor does a widow get a reprieve from punishment after murdering her husband.
Your humble blogger submits to you, dear readers, that this claim should have been barred, and applicant’s ultimate reprieve from criminal sentencing is windfall enough following a criminal conviction. But, then again, I’m just a humble blogger – who will listen to me?
Have a good weekend!