Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission Members

The AWCAC enabling legislation establishes a five-member commission, including the chair. The 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 chair must be an attorney admitted to practice in Alaska for at least 5 years with experience in workers’ compensation law. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Legislature. The regular commission term is five years; however, staggered terms are provided for the appointees. All terms expire on March 1st of the last year of appointment.

If you have an appeal before the commission, you have the right to object to a commission member hearing your case for grounds set out in AS 23.30.007(l). You must file your objection in writing with the commission office no later than 10 days after receiving a notice of the assignment of the commissioners. 8 AAC 57.080. You may send a fax or an e-mail to make your objection. The grounds for objection include

  • a party is an employee or was, in the past seven years, an employee of the commission member or of a business that employs the commission member; this paragraph does not apply to the chair of the commission when the State of Alaska is or was the employer of a party;
  • a party is a member or was, in the past seven years, a member of the same union or employee association as the commission member;
  • a party has a contractual relationship with the commission member, a business that employs the commission member, or a union or employee association of which the commission member is a member;
  • the commission member is unable to be fair, impartial, and unbiased toward the appeal participants; or
  • the commission member’s participation in the appeal is a violation of AS 39.52.

The current appeals commission members are:

  • Appeals Commission Chair

Laurence Keyes, Anchorage, has practiced law in Kodiak and Anchorage since 1982. Since 1990, he has specialized in litigation of bodily injury and property damage claims, including workers’ compensation claims. Keyes also served as an arbitrator of personal injury claims and as an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, lecturing in Maritime and Fisheries Law. He received his LL.M. in maritime law from the University of London in 1988, his J.D. (magna cum laude) from Gonzaga University in 1981, and his B.A. (Philosophy) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970. He was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell to a five-year term in March 2010.

  • Appeals Commissioners

David W. Richards, Eagle River, is a retired member of the Carpenters’ Union Local 2247 and a current member of Laborers’ Local 341. He served as a member for labor on the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board in Juneau until 1991. He was appointed as a member of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to a five-year term in March 2008. His term expires on March 1, 2013. Employee representative.

James N. Rhodes, Ketchikan, is a 17-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 1547. He served as a member for labor on the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board from August 2001 until March 2005. He was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell as a member of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to a four-year term in February 2012. His term expires on March 1, 2016.

S. T. Hagedorn, Anchorage, retired from the Alaska Railroad Corporation in June 2009 after a 34-year career, the last 24 years as the corporate Risk Manager. He was appointed to the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board in 1991 as a member for industry by Governor Walter Hickel, reappointed twice by Governor Tony Knowles, and reappointed in 2006 by Governor Frank Murkowski (15 years’ service on the Board). He has a B.A. in History from the University of Northern Iowa. He was appointed by Governor Sarah Palin as a member of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission in March 2007 to a five-year term and reappointed by Governor Sean Parnell to another five-year term in March 1, 2012. His term expires on March 1, 2017. Employer representative.

Philip E. Ulmer, Eagle River, is a Certified Workers Compensation Professional, currently employed as Sr. Manager of Safety and Workers’ Compensation for GCI. He is a previous national president of the American Society of Safety Engineers and of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics, and a 1994 Engineer of the Year finalist with the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers. He was member for industry on the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. He was appointed as a member of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to a four-year term in November 2005 and reappointed to a five-year term in March of 2009. His term expires on March 1, 2014. Employer representative.