November 25, 2005
Governor Frank H. Murkowski appointed Assistant Attorney General Kristin S. Knudsen, 53, to serve a five-year term as the commission chair last week. The commission, which was a part of the workers' compensation legislative reforms proposed by Murkowski last session, hears appeals from the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board that were formerly reviewed by the Alaska Superior Court.
Murkowski outlined three important priorities in establishing the Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission: The commission must be deliberate in its process in assisting workers and employers in resolving their disputes; the commission's application of law must be uniform and predictable; and, the commission must render decisions that are fair and free of bias.
"Too often in the past, workers' compensation cases encountered unreasonable delays and scatter-shot rulings that were inconsistent," Murkowski said. "Kristin Knudsen brings with her sharp legal skills and an outstanding commitment to my three priorities."
The new commission must meet a 180-day window between the filing of a workers' compensation appeal and rendering a decision. Appeals of commission rulings go directly to the Alaska Supreme Court. The new system is similar to the approach used in many other states.
Knudsen joined the Alaska Department of Law in 1989 specializing in workers' compensation law. Previously she was a hearing officer for the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board, an appellate brief writer for claimant's attorney Chancy Croft and a contract hearing officer for the Oregon Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.
She received her J.D. degree from Santa Clara University in California, a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California and studied at the Institut International des Droits de L'Homme in Strasbourg, France.
The AWCAC enabling legislation establishes a five-member commission, including the chair. The initial non-chair members are volunteer representatives of employees and employers who must have served for at least 18 months as a member of the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Legislature. The regular commission term is five years, however, staggered terms are provided for the initial appointees. The commissioners include:
John Giuchici, Fairbanks, assistant business manager, Local 1547, IBEW/NECA AFL-CIO; previously a power lineman for Grasle & Associates, PDQ Construction, Norcon, Inc., Power City, Southern Electric, Hardline/Meyers, Primary Electric and Golden Valley Electric; 3 year term; employee representative.
Jim Robison, Eagle River, former president of the Alaska AFL-CIO and the Alaska State District Council of Laborers; vice president of the Tri Trades Public Service Council and Operating Engineers; commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor for Governor William Sheffield; 1 year term; employee representative.
Marc D. Stemp, Bethel, president and chief executive officer, Bethel Native Corporation; former financial officer for Kootznoowoo, Inc., Angoon, and Ahtna, Inc., Copper Center; treasurer of Bristol Bay Native Corporation; assistant controller for Tesoro Alaska Petroleum; 2 year term; employer representative.
Philip E. Ulmer, Eagle River, registered professional engineer, manager of safety and worker's compensation for GCI; previous national president, American Society of Safety Engineers and the National Institute for Engineering Ethics; 1994 Engineer of the Year finalist with the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers; 4 year term; employer representative.
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