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AGLO 1980 No. 33 - December 31, 1980
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- BOARD OF INDUSTRIAL INSURANCE APPEALS ‑- APPLICABILITY OF EXECUTIVE CONFLICT OF INTEREST LAW

The Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals is not a part of the judicial branch of state government for purposes of determining the applicability of the Executive Conflict of Interest Act, chapter 42.18 RCW.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               December 31, 1980

Honorable Michael L. Hall
Chairman
Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals
Capitol Center Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1980 No. 33

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you directed our attention to the Executive Conflict of Interest Act, chapter 42.18 RCW, and to the fact that, under RCW 42.18.130(1), the provisions of that act do not apply to ". . . officers and employees in the legislative and judicial branches of the state of Washington . . ."  You then posed the following question:

            "Is the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals a part of the judicial branch of the state of Washington for purposes of determining the applicability of the Executive Conflict of Interest Act, Chapter 42.18 RCW?"

            We answer this question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals is provided for by RCW 51.52.010.  In AGLO 1980 No. 15, copy enclosed, we characterized it and then described its basic functions as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Preliminarily, we note that the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals is an independent quasi-judicial administrative agency which was originally established to review decisions and orders of the Department of Labor and Industries pursuant to appeals arising under the Washington Industrial Insurance Act, Title 51 RCW.  In addition, however, this same administrative tribunal now is also responsible for reviewing the department's decisions under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (chapter 49.17 RCW) and, as indicated by your present inquiry, the Crime Victims Compensation Act (chapter 7.68 RCW).  See, RCW 7.68.110."

            Undoubtedly, the review functions which are thus performed by the board are quite properly referred to as "quasi-judicial" functions.  See,Floyd v. Dept. of Labor and Industries, 44 Wn.2d 560, 269 P.2d 563 (1954).  In that same case, however, the Court also implicitly recognized that the board is an administrative agency.  Thus, as the Court observed at pp. 567-8, in describing the dichotomy thereby presented:

            ". . . Many cases hold that some administrative bodies perform functions which are judicial or quasi-judicial while other agencies perform essentially legislative or quasi-legislative or administrative functions.

            "Among the cases holding that an administrative body can exercise judicial or quasi-judicial powers are the following: Western Metal Supply Co. v. Pillsbury, 172 Cal. 407, 156 Pac. 497;French v. Rischell, 40 Cal. (2d) 477, 254 P. (2d) 26;Breimhorst v. Beckman, 227 Minn. 409, 35 N.W. (2d) 719.  In each of these cases, the administrative agency which was held to be exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers was created for the purpose of making awards to injured workmen under workmen's compensation or industrial insurance laws."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Conversely, in our opinion, when one refers to the "judicial branch" of our state government, the sole object of that reference is to the state judiciary as provided for in Article IV of the Washington Constitution;i.e., the Supreme Court, court of appeals, superior courts, justices of peace and such other inferiorcourts as the legislature may establish.  The mere fact that a given agency performs judicial or quasi-judicial functions under a law passed by the legislature does not cause that agency to be a part of the judicial branch of state government.  Rather, the rationale from such cases as those above cited‑-sustaining the performance of judicial functions by administrative agencies‑-is simply that the existence of a separate judicial branch of government does not preclude the legislature from vesting those administrative agencies with adjudicatory functions similar to the ones traditionally performed by the courts.1/

             It is also instructive to take note of the definition of an "agency" which is set forth in RCW 34.04.010(1) for purposes of the State Administrative Procedure Act.  That definition reads as follows:

            "'Agency' means any state board, commission, department, of officer, authorized by law to make rules or to adjudicate contested cases, except those in the legislativeor judicial branches."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Thus, if the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals was truly an agency of the judicial branch of state government, it would not be covered by the APA at all.  Yet, significantly, the APA itself later treats the board as though it was covered, generally, by that act‑-and then exempts it from only certain specified provisions thereof.  See, RCW 34.04.150.2/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We therefore conclude, in direct answer to your question, that the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals is not a part of the judicial branch of state government for purposes of determining the applicability of the Executive Conflict of Interest Act.  Instead, it is simply an administrative (or executive) agency vested with judicial or quasi-judicial functions.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See also, for a general discussion of the subject, 1 Davis, Administrative Law, Sec. 1.09 (pp. 64-74).

2/              "This chapter shall not apply to the state militia, or the board of prison terms and paroles, or any institution of higher education as defined in RCW 28B.19.020.  The provisions of RCW 34.04.090 through 34.04.130 shall not apply to the board of industrial insurance appeals or the board of tax appeals unless an election is made pursuant to RCW 82.03.140 or 82.03.190.  The provisions of RCW 34.04.090 through 34.04.130 and the provisions of RCW 34.04.170 shall not apply to the denial, suspension or revocation of a driver's license by the department of licensing.  All other agencies, whether or not formerly specifically excluded from the provisions of all or any part of the administrative procedure act, shall be subject to the entire act."  (Emphasis supplied)

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