2010 Alaska Attorney General Reports and Opinions 1 (2010)

handle is hein.sag/sagak0017 and id is 1 raw text is: January 6, 2010

The Honorable Clark Bishop
Commissioner, Department of Labor & Workforce Development
State of Alaska
PO Box 111149
Juneau, AK 99811-1149
Re:   Workers' Compensation Officers' Authority to Decide Disputed Procedural
Issues, AGO No. AN2009104342
Dear Commissioner Bishop:
You have asked for our opinion as to the role that non-attorney workers'
compensation officers can play with respect to conducting prehearing conferences and
whether an officer is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when the officer decides
disputed procedural and preliminary issues.' You also inquired whether the decision in
Bohlmann v. Alaska Construction & Engineering, Inc., 205 P.3d 316 (Alaska 2009), has a
legal impact on how workers' compensation officers conduct prehearing conferences
involving unrepresented parties.
In brief, it is our opinion that workers' compensation officers may exercise the full
authority as the board's designee in conducting prehearings and are not engaged in the
unauthorized practice of law when they decide disputed procedural issues. In addition, it is
our opinion that the Alaska Supreme Court's Bohlmann decision does not affect the
designation of workers' compensation officers to conduct prehearings, as permitted by both
statute and regulation, even when a party at the prehearing is not represented by counsel. A
more detailed analysis of these responses follows.
I     By statute and regulation, the Workers' Compensation Board (board) may have the
board's designee conduct prehearings conferences. See AS 23.30.108, AS 23.30.110(c),
and 8 AAC 45.065. The board historically has designated non-attorney workers'
compensation officers to conduct these prehearing conferences.

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