This is my first Chair’s Column for the Judicial Division Record. It is an honor to sit on the Judicial Division Council along with distinguished colleagues I have respected and admired for many years. I am only the second African-American Chair for the National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary (NCALJ), and the first African-American from a federal agency. NCALJ celebrates this watershed, as well as the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution giving voting rights to women.
The theme of our Judicial Division Chair, the Hon. Michelle Childs for this year is “One Judiciary.” NCALJ is particularly pleased to share this theme since our courts are comprised of judges with many diverse specializations. From environmental law to nuclear regulatory issues, from disability benefits determinations to veterans claims, from professional liability to labor and employment law, from immigration law to patent and trademark disputes, administrative judges decide a wide variety of sophisticated legal issues. At the federal level, and in some states, our courtrooms are housed within specific administrative agencies. This can create an appearance that administrative judges are subject to undue influence from agencies when it comes to decision-making. The theme of “One Judiciary” reminds us that we engage in the same fact-finding and legal reasoning process that all judges do, and should enjoy analogous decisional independence.