Appeal No. 15-009
Decision No. 15-0022
Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and
Shawn Hudak seeks review of a decision by the Workers'
Compensation Appeals Commission to deny interlocutory review
of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Board. At
issue is the Board's exclusion of medical evidence from
Hudak's treating physician. The Board determined that
when Hudak sought a second opinion from another doctor in his
surgeon's practice before undergoing a second shoulder
surgery, this constituted a change of physician under AS
23.30.095. Hudak petitioned for review from that decision,
and the Commission denied that petition without comment.
Worker's Compensation Appeals Commission is a
quasi-judicial agency and not a court. "We have
long held that 'agency decisions, in exercise of their
adjudicative powers, must be accompanied by written findings
and a decisional document.' " W e have also
consistently suggested that even non-adjudicative decisions
of an agency, like the ruling on the interlocutory motion at
issue in this case, must be supported by adequate reasoning
to permit judicial review, although such non-adjudicative
decisions "need not occur in a formal, unified
decisional document, as long as the record clearly reflects
the reasoning underlying the agency's
the petitioner argues that the Juneau Board panel's
decision on this issue conflicts with that of the Anchorage
and Fairbanks Board panels, and he argues that he will suffer
hardship if there is delay in review of the Board's
decision. Respondent responds that there is no reason to
interrupt the normal adjudication process prior to the
Board's issuance of a final, appealable decision and that
this issue is not one that might otherwise evade review.
Because the Commission did not provide the reasons for its
denial of the interlocutory petition, we are unable to review
the dissent points out that we would not require an
explanation of the decision of an intermediate appellate
court, such as the court of appeals or the superior court
when it reviews an administrative decision, as noted above,
the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission is a
quasi-judicial agency and not a court. We clarified this
point in Alaska Public Interest Research Group v.
State. There, AKPIRG challenged the
legislature's creation of the Commission as
unconstitutional because the Alaska Constitution vests
judicial power in the courts. We concluded that "the
fact that the Appeals Commission reviews Board decisions and
uses standards of review and procedures that closely parallel
those of the court does not make the Appeals Commission a
court." And we agreed with the State's
argument that "the Appeals Commission is simply another
quasi-judicial agency, creation of which is within the
constitutional power of the legislature." Although, as the
dissent notes, findings are not required when an appellate
court declines to exercise discretionary review of an
interlocutory decision, we have strongly suggested that all
agency decisions - even non-adjudicative decisions - must
"be supported by an adequate decisional
document."Because the Commission is an agency and not
a court, it must explain both its final decisions and its
non-adjudicative decisions so that we can properly exercise
our responsibility of judicial review.
Therefore Ordered that the petition is granted to the
following extent: On or before July 30, 2015, the Commission
shall explain in writing its reasons for denying the petition
for review to assist this court in its responsibility of
reviewing that decision. This court retains jurisdiction of
by direction of the court.
BOLGER, Justice, dissenting.
year we decide dozens of petitions for review of
non-appealable orders of the superior court. We deny most of
these petitions. But we generally do not provide any
explanation for our decision to deny a petition for review.
In Contento v. Alaska State Housing
Authority, we explained the reasons for this policy:
A denial of a petition for review of an interlocutory order
does not mean that we either approve or disapprove of the
order sought to be reviewed, but merely that we decline to
pass judgment at all on the action of the trial court.
Furthermore, denial of review signifies that the petitioner
has not convinced us that there is need for early
consideration of a non-appealable order, in accordance with
the considerations governing ...