The Edmond Sun

Local News

January 10, 2014

Oklahoma First Gentleman won’t practice before new panel

OKLA. CITY — First Gentleman Wade Christensen announced today that he will not practice before the new workers’ compensation commission because of the recent changes made to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws.

Christensen, who represents various Oklahoma employers, said he will not personally represent clients before the new administrative system in order to avoid any actual or perceived appearance of impropriety.

Legislative changes were passed and signed into law last year which gave Gov. Mary Fallin, Christensen’s wife, the authority to appoint the three-member commission that oversees the new system’s operations. This commission is also delegated the responsibility of selecting the new administrative law judges who conduct hearings and determine claims for compensation under the new Commission. Because of the governor’s influence on the new system, Christensen said he will remove himself before the changes take effect.

Fallin signed legislation last year that changed Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system from a court system into an administrative one. The measure, Senate Bill 1062, takes effect

Feb. 1.

“I appreciate Wade going above and beyond both the spirit and the letter of the law to ensure his legal work does not reflect either a conflict of interest or the appearance of one,” Fallin said.

Christensen said he will continue to represent clients whose cases are pending with the workers’

compensation court.

He said he will continue to assist his employer/clients with work-related issues, as well as practice in other business related and commercial areas. Claims for injuries or death filed before Feb. 1 will be determined by the Court of Existing Claims. It’s expected the Court of Existing Claims would be phased out by Nov. 1, 2017.

“To avoid any type of a conflict, I’ve decided to not practice before the newly created administrative workers’ compensation commission,” Christensen said. “My wife has been leading the way for the past 20 years to improve and reform the workers’ compensation system. I don’t want to impede her progress or the progress made by the House and Senate who worked very diligently to restructure the workers’ compensation system for the state of Oklahoma.

“My No. 1 priority is to ensure that all of the work that we are doing, or might do in the future, is legal, ethical and appropriate in every regard,” Christensen said.

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