Copyright (c) 1998 National Administrative Law Judge Foundation
Journal of The National Association of Administrative Law Judges
ARTICLE: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JUDGES IN THE JUDICIAL BRANCH AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH: THE FURTHER EVOLUTION OF EXECUTIVE ADJUDICATIONS UNDER THE ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRAL PANEL
18 J. NAALJ 1
© 1998 Christopher B. McNeil*
For several years a debate has taken place in the pages of this Journal and elsewhere, concerning the independence of the administrative judiciary in the United States. It would be fair to characterize the debate as one that focuses on the role of the administrative law judge as a public servant - a public servant who must accomplish two oftentimes conflicting goals. The ALJ typically is possessed of an unusually thorough familiarity with government operations of one sort or another: she may know foster care rules for the State of Oklahoma better than virtually any judge or lawyer in her state; he may have been with the Social Security Administration through cyclical contractions and expansions, acquiring along the way a history of legislative expressions of intent that few can equal. This expertise is then linked (typically, although not always) with formal training in the law and the juris doctorate. Take this extraordinary command over governmental policies and systems, and add to it the lawyer's knowledge of American judicial systems, and you have the typical ALJ.
At the same time, this public servant is also responsible for conducting hearings and rendering judgments, and the hearings and judgments possess many of the attributes of traditional adjudications: there are winners and losers, people lose government benefits or are barred from practicing their chosen professions or denied the opportunity to earn a livelihood in their field, agencies find they must abandon long-standing approaches to carrying out fledgling and sometimes poorly thought-out legislation, and ...
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