Administrative Law Judges-Giving Process Its Due
Glazer, Steven A., The Public Manager
When federal agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA), National Labor Relations Board, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and others decide cases in their areas of expertise, the public wants to know that the decisions are fair and impartial. No one wants to challenge a denial of a Medicare or Social Security claim or bring an unfair labor practice or other type of case to an administrative agency for a decision if the decision maker is biased or a tool of some political agenda. To ensure that this does not happen, the law has provided for the last half-century that many of these agency decisions are to be made by independent, impartial government employees known as administrative law judges (ALJs).
ALJs are adjudicators who support their agencies by holding hearings, gathering and ruling on evidence, hearing and evaluating witnesses, issuing subpoenas, regulating the course of the legal proceedings, and preparing an initial or recommended decision for final agency action in an individual case. To ensure their impartiality in decision making, ALJs are statutorily assured of decisional independence within their agencies. Their pay is set by statute, their performance is not reviewed by agency management, they are not easily removed from office, and they are selected by a process that is set apart from the usual hiring channels of the federal bureaucracy. This hiring process is designed to favor legal generalists over agency insiders in the choice of new ALJs for agency adjudicative positions and offers military veterans a preference over nonveterans.
Today, about 1,400 ALJs serve in some thirty agencies of the federal government. Approximately 86 percent of them serve in SSA branch offices all over the country, deciding disability benefits cases. A growing number also serve in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), deciding Medicare claims from four offices in Ohio, Florida, California, and Virginia.
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Publication information: Article title: Administrative Law Judges-Giving Process Its Due. Contributors: Glazer, Steven A. - Author. Journal title: The Public Manager. Volume: 37. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2008. Page number: 48+. © 2009 Bureaucrat, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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