Santa Rosa workers' comp judge Katie Ferchland Boriolo wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: As a Workers' Compensation judge, I preside over a daily court calendar consisting of Status Conferences, Mandatory Settlement Conferences, and Trials.
There are no juries in workers' compensation law, so I conduct proceedings in my own trial court. At trial, I rule on evidentiary and testimonial objections. Then I research the evidence, the applicable Labor Code Sections, and the relevant case law to render a Findings and Award, and an Opinion on Decision.
The issues for trial range from whether the employee was actually in the course of their employment when they sustained an injury to the level of permanent disability they sustained.
In just about three years, I have tried over 85 cases. The injured workers that have appeared in my courtroom have included police officers, victims of mass shootings and armed robberies, prison inmates, fire victims, and employees who have been permanently rendered unable to work due to their industrial injury.
Also, I am sent petitions drafted by a party regarding various discovery disputes for my ruling. Additionally, the parties will submit tentative settlements to review for adequacy. Once I approve a settlement, the workers' compensation insurance company has 30 days to release their payment to the injured workers.
Often, the injured worker is anxiously awaiting their settlement proceeds, so a judge must act very quickly in reviewing the proposed settlements. If an injured worker is not represented by an attorney, as a judge, I have to ensure the applicant (injured worker) was sent all their requisite notices that apprise them of their legal rights during the pendency of the case.
I am one of three workers compensation judges in Santa Rosa and am the only woman. Occasionally, I am the acting presiding judge and, in effect, am in charge of the entire workers compensation appeals board.
In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
To be a judge for almost three years, at 37, is extremely unique and a testament to the leadership that perfectly personifies forty under 40.
Years with company: 3
Length of time in current position: 3
Number of companywide employees: 209,000
Number who report to you: 7
Greatest professional accomplishment: Aside from becoming a workers' compensation certified specialist, my greatest professional accomplishment is becoming one of the youngest workers' compensation judges in California, at the age of 35. Also, I am only the third woman workers compensation judge in the history of the Santa Rosa workers compensation appeals board since it opened in the 1960's.
Greatest professional challenge: The greatest professional challenge I face is the gravity of the outcome of my decisions. My decisions have very real life consequences to the injured workers that appear before me. None of my rulings or decisions can be entered into lightly because they can have drastic effects on peoples' lives.
Best advice received: When I first started as a judge, I had a case that was a very close call. Given the evidence, my decision could have gone either way. I reached out to a very seasoned judge for advice. She told me, “Our job is to make a decision but that's why it's so challenging. So make a decision that you can back up with evidence and be confident with your gut instinct.”
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: The most important event within the last 12 months is being accepted as a member of the Executive Committee of the Workers' Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association. The roughly 30-member committee consists of applicant attorneys, defense attorneys and judges that represent the workers compensation community in the entire state of California.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
Consistent with our state leadership at the top, as public employees, we are encouraged to take steps to cut frivolous costs.
Next professional goal: To become the first woman presiding judge at the Santa Rosa Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.
Education: I received my undergraduate degree at Chico State University. I attended Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa for my Juris Doctrate.
Hometown: Santa Rosa
Community/nonprofit activities: After I graduated law school, I volunteered at Sonoma County Legal Aid, where I helped draft restraining orders for victims of domestic violence. Currently, I am a member of the executive committee of the Workers' Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association. Within that committee, I am a member of the following subcommittees: 1) practice and ethics; 2) awards and recognition, and 3) community outreach.
I am also very active in the PTA at my oldest son's elementary school. I have voluntarily coached his youth soccer team for the Town of Windsor for the last two seasons.
Mentor/admired businessperson: My dad, a retired workers' compensation attorney, who introduced me to this unique and specialized area of law. Without him, my career would likely not have been possible.
What is your most disliked industry buzzword?
Typical day at the office: I arrive at 8 a.m. and first research the pending issues in all the cases on my calendar for that day. If there are trials, I briefly review the exhibits before I enter my courtroom for the morning calendar which starts at 8:30. After I complete my morning court calendar, which can range from just 1 or 2 cases to 8 or 9, I review all the petitions and settlements submitted for my review. The afternoon court calendar begins at 1:30 p.m.
Again, I will conduct my court calendar, which is either a continuation of the morning's trial or all new proceedings. Afterwards, again, if there is time, I conduct research for pending decisions or rule on submitted petitions.
Best place to work outside of your office: Home with my 5 year old and 3 year old sons running around, creating chaos.
Hobbies: Reading, running, trying to cook something edible for my family.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: I wanted to be a waitress when I grew up.
#1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: I would like to teach law school by the time I turn 40.
First job: I worked as a soccer coach during college.
Social media you most use: I try to refrain from using social media due to my position.
Favorite book: “The Color Purple”
Favorite movie: “Labyrinth”
Favorite App: Pintrest
Favorite after-work drink: Zinfandel
Last vacation: I went to Lake Tahoe for an executive committee meeting then we took the kids to Reno for a couple days.
What does your mom or dad brag most about you?
Hopefully they most brag about me being a good mom to my young sons.