Briggs v. Dept. of Public Safety
In Briggs v. Dept. of Public Safety, 732 P.2d 1078 (Alaska 1987), the supreme court held that, in an administrative license revocation proceeding, the Department of Public Safety was collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of whether law enforcement officers had taken adequate steps to preserve an arrested motorist's breath sample. The Department of Law had already litigated (and lost) that same issue during suppression proceedings in a related criminal prosecution.
The supreme court held that the Department of Public Safety was in privity with the Department of Law because the Department of Public Safety's interests were adequately represented by the district attorney's office that defended the suppression motion. (Briggs, 732 P.2d at 1082-83.)
In Briggs, the supreme court found that the Department of Public Safety and the district attorney's office shared an identical interest in winning the breath sample preservation issue, and that the prosecutor's motive to advocate this interest at the suppression hearing was precisely the same as the Department of Public Safety's motive to advocate that same interest at the license revocation proceeding.
Based on these findings, the court ruled that the Department of Public Safety was in "privity" with the Department of Law -- a shorthand way of saying that the Department of Public Safety was estopped from relitigating the breath sample preservation issue.
A footnote in the Briggs opinion shows that the supreme court was mindful that the interests of the prosecutor's office might diverge from the interests of other criminal justice agencies, thus defeating a finding of privity:
"The situation in the present case is distinguishable from situations where the differing interests of the prosecutor and the administrative agency might justify a refusal to apply collateral estoppel. ... Depending on the circumstances, a prosecutor's decision to dismiss or to stipulate might reflect interests not shared by the administrative agency and thus should not be used against the agency, which was not entitled to appear at the criminal proceeding." (Briggs, 732 P.2d at 1083 n.9.)