January 08, 2021 National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary

NCALJ Chair's Column

By Hon. H. Alexander Manuel, Arlington, VA

This has certainly been an eventful quarter, with major events affecting both our Conference and the broader American legal and political systems. First, the National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary joins our Judicial Division brethren in expressing profound sadness at the September 2020 passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Many of our Conference members, including myself, had the pleasure of meeting Justice Ginsburg, and fondly recall her gracious and generous nature. Even those who were not lucky enough to know Justice Ginsburg personally share deep respect and admiration for her tremendous legal skill and tireless pursuit of justice. Justice Ginsburg was truly a champion for all the people. If you have not already done so, I encourage everyone to enjoy the wonderful tribute to Justice Ginsburg on the JD’s web page.

NCALJ continues our efforts to promote decisional independence for all administrative adjudicators. We are very concerned by the Executive Order excepting federal ALJs from the competitive service and the recent Federal Labor Relations Authority decision decertifying the labor union status of 450 federal Immigration Judges.  Regular readers of this column will recall that NCALJ has been actively working toward the implementation of a federal central panel model akin to those successfully employed in dozens of states. Our Executive Committee recently voted to postpone presentation of an NCALJ Resolution on a proposed FCP until May 2021.  With this additional time, NCALJ expects to build its support amongst stakeholders in the new administration. 

NCALJ also continues to support the ABA’s response to the COVID-19 crisis by developing webinar programming and other resource materials. While we were naturally forced into “triage mode” in the early months of the crisis, our focus has now shifted toward distilling and disseminating experienced-based “best practices” to help adjudicators across the nation manage longer-term COVID-related challenges. We also support the great ABA work on criminal justice reform by tracking and attending the CRSJ programming.

Additionally, we pause to take note of the passing last month of Chief Administrative Law Judge Tyrone Butler (Ret.). Judge Butler was a former detective for the New York City Police Department and an ALJ in New York before heading up the Washington D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings in the 1990s and early 2000s. He was also the first and only African American NCALJ Chair until 2020.  He was much loved and will be dearly missed.

As this historic year comes to a close, I want to express my sincere appreciation for the dedication, flexibility, and continued cohesion shown by all members of our Conference, the Judicial Division, and the ABA as a whole. None of us could have imagined at the 2020 Midyear meeting the dramatic changes and challenges that lay just around the corner. It is truly a testament to the incredible skill, talent, and work ethic of our membership that we were able to adjust on the fly and hardly miss a beat in continuing our important work.

NCALJ wishes all members of the JD, and their loved ones, a joyous and safe holiday season! Please send future comments or article content to Judge Patrick Spencer.

Hon. H. Alexander Manuel, Arlington, VA

Hon. H. Alexander Manuel, Arlington, VA

2020-2021 NCALJ Chair