Administrative law judge

Administrative law judge

An administrative law judge (ALJ) in the United States is an official who presides at an administrative trial-type hearing to resolve a dispute between a government agency and someone affected by a decision of that agency. The ALJ is the initial trier of fact and decision maker. ALJs can administer oaths, take testimony, rule on questions of evidence, and make factual and legal determinations. [ [ 5 U.S.C. § 556] ] ALJ-controlled proceedings are comparable to a bench trial, and, depending upon the agency's jurisdiction, may have complex multi-party adjudication, as is the case with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or simplified and less formal procedures, as is the case with the Social Security Administration.

Federal appointment and tenure

The Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (APA) requires that federal ALJs be appointed based on scores achieved in a comprehensive testing procedure, including an four-hour written examination and an oral examination before a panel that includes an OPM representative, American Bar Assn. representative, and a sitting federal ALJ. Federal ALJs are the only merit-based judicial corps in the United States.

In American administrative law, ALJs are Article I judges, and are not Article III judges under the U.S. Constitution. Unlike Article III judges, Article I judges are not confirmed by the Senate.

The APA is designed to guarantee the decisional independence of ALJs. They have absolute immunity from liability for their judicial acts and are triers of fact "insulated from political influence". Federal administrative law judges are not responsible to, or subject to the supervision or direction of employees or agents of the federal agency engaged in the performance of investigative or prosecution functions for the agency. Ex parte communications are prohibited. ALJs are exempt from performance ratings, evaluation, and bonuses. Agency officials may not interfere with their decision making and administrative law judges may be discharged only for good cause based upon a complaint filed by the agency with the Merit Systems Protections Board established and determined after an APA hearing on the record before an MSPB ALJ."Butz v. Economou", 438 U.S. 478, 514 [1978] ] Only ALJs receive these statutory protections; "hearing officers" or "trial examiners", with delegated hearing functions, are not similarly protected by the APA.

Authority and review of federal ALJs

The United States Supreme Court has recognized that the role of a federal administrative law judge is "functionally comparable" to that of an Article III judge. An ALJ's powers are often, if not generally, comparable to those of a trial judge: The ALJ may issue subpoenas, rule on proffers of evidence, regulate the course of the hearing, and make or recommend decisions. The process of agency adjudication is currently structured so as to assure that the hearing examiner exercises his independent judgment on the evidence before him, free from pressures by the parties or other officials within the agency." ["Federal Maritime Commission v. S.C. State Ports Authority", 535 U.S. 743, 756 (2002)] p. 514]

Procedure for reviewing an ALJ's decision varies depending upon the agency. Agencies generally have an internal appellate body, with some agencies having a Cabinet secretary deciding the final internal appeals. Moreover, after the internal agency appeals have been exhausted, a party may have the right to file an appeal in the state or federal courts. Relevant statutes usually require a party to exhaust all administrative appeals "before" they are allowed to sue an agency in court.

State ALJs

Most U.S. states have a statute modeled after the APA or somewhat similar to it. In some states, like New Jersey, the state law is also known as the Administrative Procedure Act.

Unlike federal ALJs, whose powers are guaranteed by the APA /federal statute, state ALJs have widely varying power and prestige. In some state law contexts, ALJs have almost no power; their decisions are accorded practically no deference and become, in effect, recommendations. In some cities, notably New York, ALJs are at-will employees of the agency, making their decisional independence potentially questionable. [Ackman, Dan. [ "The Price of Justice"] . "New York Times", Feb. 12, 2006] In some agencies, ALJs dress like lawyers in business suits, share offices, and hold hearings in ordinary conference rooms. In other agencies (particularly the Division of Workers' Compensation of the California Department of Industrial Relations), ALJs wear robes like Article III judges, are referred to as "Honorable" and "Your Honor", work in private chambers, hold hearings in special "hearing rooms" that look like small courtrooms, and have court clerks who swear in witnesses.

Professional organizations

Professional organizations that represent federal ALJs include the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference, the Association of Administrative Law Judges, which represents only Social Security ALJs, and the Forum of United States Administrative Law judges. Professional organizations that include both state and federal ALJs include the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, the ABA National Conference of Administrative Law Judiciary, and the National Association of Hearing Officers.

List of U.S. federal agencies with ALJs

* Coast Guard
* Commodity Futures Trading Commission
* Department of Agriculture
* Department of Health and Human Services/Department Appeals Board
* Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals
* Department of Housing and Urban Development
* Department of the Interior
* Department of Justice/Executive Office of Immigration Review
* Department of Labor
* Department of Transportation
* Drug Enforcement Administration
* Environmental Protection Agency
* Federal Aviation Administration
* Federal Communications Commission
* Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
* Federal Labor Relations Authority
* Federal Maritime Commission
* Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
* Federal Trade Commission
* Food and Drug Administration
* International Trade Commission
* Merit Systems Protection Board
* National Labor Relations Board
* National Transportation Safety Board
* Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
* Office of Financial Institution Adjudication
* Postal Service
* Securities and Exchange Commission
* Small Business Administration
* Social Security Administration

Other federal agencies may request the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to lend them Administrative Law Judges from other federal agencies for a period of up to six months.

List of state departments and agencies with ALJs

Some states, like California, follow the federal model of having a separate corps of ALJs attached to each agency that uses them. Others, like New Jersey, have consolidated all ALJs together into a single agency that holds hearings on behalf of all other state agencies. This type of state adjudicatory agency is called a "central panel agency". Many states have a central panel agency, but the agency does not handle all the hearings for every state agency.

*Alabama Department of Revenue
*California Department of Consumer Affairs
*California Department of Health Services
*California Department of Industrial Relations
*California Department of Social Services
*California Employment Development Department
*California Public Utilities Commission
*Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
*Illinois Human Rights Commission
*Industrial Commission of Arizona
*Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals-Division of Administrative Hearings (does hearings for some but not all state agencies)
*Iowa Workforce Development Department
*Louisiana Division of Administrative Law
*Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings
*Maryland Public Service Commission (hearings for public utility cases)
*Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation
*Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
*Michigan State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules
*Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (does hearings for some but not all state agencies)
*New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (does hearings for all state agencies)
*New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (does hearings for all city agencies)
*New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission []
*New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
*New York State Department of Labor
*Pennsylvania Department of Insurance
*Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workers' Compensation
*Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
*Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
*South Carolina Administrative Law Court (does hearings for all state agencies)
*Texas Department of Banking
*Texas Finance Commission
*Texas Health and Human Services Commission
*Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (does hearings for only some state agencies)
*Traffic Violations Bureau of New York State DMV
*Washington Office of Administrative Hearings (does hearings for all state agencies plus some local ones)

ee also

*Article I and Article III tribunals


External links

* [ National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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