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Squires v. Alaska Bd. of Architects, Engineers & Land Surveyors

Supreme Court of Alaska

April 17, 2009

John D. SQUIRES, Appellant,

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Douglas K. Mertz, William F. Cummings, Juneau, for Appellant.

Jenna Rohr Conley, Assistant Attorney General, Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, MATTHEWS, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.


WINFREE, Justice.


John D. Squires disputes an agency denial of his request for a waiver of one of two examinations typically required to become a registered engineer. The superior court affirmed

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the agency decision. Squires appeals, claiming the agency erroneously concluded he had failed to present enough verifiable evidence of the twenty years of engineering experience required for an exam waiver. He asserts that the agency erroneously imposed experience verification requirements that were not set out in any statute or regulation. He also asserts that the agency denied him due process by imposing experience verification requirements that could not be met and by disregarding evidence that he was sufficiently qualified to be a registered engineer. He finally argues that the agency denied him equal protection of the law by not treating him like certain other applicants with the " same background, training, and experience."

We conclude that the agency: (1) did not impose improper experience verification requirements by denying his exam waiver request; (2) reasonably found Squires had failed to demonstrate he was entitled to an exam waiver; and (3) did not violate Squires's due process or equal protection rights. We therefore affirm.


A. Statutory and Regulatory Background

Alaska Statute 08.48 governs engineer licensing in Alaska. The Board of Registration for Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors (Board) administers the registration process and is statutorily empowered to adopt regulations. [1]

Alaska Statute 08.48.171 provides that an applicant for engineer registration " must be of good character and reputation and shall submit evidence satisfactory to the board of the applicant's education, training and experience." [2] There are two ways to become a registered engineer in Alaska: by examination and by comity.[3]

Examinations are administered pursuant to the Board's procedures and standards regulations; the Board's procedures and standards must meet the requirements of the recognized national examining council for engineers.[4] The Board typically requires applicants to pass two exams. One is the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (often called the FE, but referred to here as the fundamentals exam), testing materials covered in undergraduate engineering programs.[5] The other is the Principles and Practices of Engineering exam (often called the PE, but referred to here as the professional exam), testing practical applications of engineering theories.[6] The Board may waive the fundamentals exam for an applicant who submits

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" satisfactory evidence ... to verify 20 years of professional experience." [7]

By comity a registered engineer from another state or foreign country may apply for and obtain Alaska registration if " in the opinion of the board" the prior registration meets all of Alaska's requirements.[8] However, a comity applicant need not have taken a fundamentals exam in the earlier registration process.[9]

The application instructions for registration as an engineer are of particular importance to this appeal. The instructions provide that relevant work experience must be verified by employers or supervisors using the Board's work-experience verification forms. The instructions further provide that relevant work experience must be " verified by a U.S. -registered engineer." These application instructions had been in effect for at least six years Before Squires applied for registration as a professional engineer.

B. Facts and Proceedings

Squires graduated from college in 1969 with a degree unrelated to engineering, but has worked in construction engineering since the early 1970s. He received a master's degree in engineering from the University of Washington in 1988. He has never been a registered engineer in any jurisdiction.

Squires first applied for registration as an engineer in Alaska in December 2003. The Board approved Squires to sit for both the fundamentals exam and the professional exam. Squires then applied for a fundamentals exam waiver, submitting his resume and a summary of his engineering experience. He advised that third-party verifications for his professional experience would be arriving separately, but that " many of the people who supervised my engineering work 20 years ago are either deceased or cannot be located [and this] may cause some difficulties in my meeting the board's waiver requirements." Squires took and passed the professional exam in April 2004.

In August 2004 the Board concluded that Squires had not adequately verified the 240 months of professional experience required for a waiver of the fundamentals exam under 12 AAC 36.090. The Board advised Squires that he had to verify at least 128 more months of professional experience to be eligible for an exam waiver and invited him to submit additional information.

In February 2005 Squires resubmitted his exam waiver request with an affidavit and a summary of his experience. The Board again concluded that Squires had not verified 240 months of professional experience. The Board advised Squires that only 100 months of professional experience had been verified by third-party registered engineers. The Board reiterated that Squires was still approved to sit for the fundamentals exam.

Squires appealed the Board's decision and requested a hearing. An administrative hearing was held in September 2005. In January 2006 the hearing officer issued a proposed Decision and Order concluding, based on the Board's February 2005 calculations, that Squires had failed to adequately document twenty years of relevant professional experience and was not entitled to an exam waiver.

The Board did not act on the proposed decision at its February 2006 meeting. Squires's attorney asked for an " opportunity to present to [the Board] a short, very summary brief that says what we believe is wrong with [the hearing officer's proposed] decision." The Board granted the request, stating that it would not take action until the next Board meeting. Squires's attorney submitted additional materials to the Board and indicated he had asked Squires to attempt to " find more people" who could verify his work experience. The Board's executive director responded that Squires should submit any additional information by May 12, 2006.

In May 2006 Squires presented his case to the Board with additional evidence, including

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a spreadsheet titled " Engineering Experience" and letters of reference associated with the listed positions. The Board then met with the hearing officer and adopted the hearing officer's January 2006 proposed ...

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