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January 31, 2022 National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary

NCALJ Chair's Column

By Hon. John C. Allen, IV, Chicago, IL

Happy New Year!

I know by the time you read this, everyone will be several days or weeks into the brand-new year of 2022. Normally, I would make a joke that would be something along the lines of, “Who would have thought that we would have made it this far!” Unfortunately, recent times add a little edge to what would normally be a light comment. While the daily news sources focus on the extremes present in our society, the legal profession and the judiciary push forward by overcoming obstacles and adapting their processes to fit the new normal. Our aim is always to provide citizens with a fair, independent and impartial judiciary that meets the needs of the litigants and the attorneys that represent them.

NCALJ supports that goal in many ways. We provide educational programs for our membership, recommend policies to protect our profession’s fundamental core of judicial independence, and provide guidance on the professional responsibility obligations that accompany the privilege of serving as an administrative law judge.

The Program Education Outreach Committee has worked closely with the Judicial Division (JD) to plan a series of programs to continue the First Thursday sponsored by the JD. In January, a program was held of the benefits and concerns of virtual hearings as compared to in-person hearings. February looks at how mediation can be a cost-effective and time saving tool to handle docket management processes. April and May will continue to explore the issues surrounding the establishment of a federal central panel like the models established in a large number of state governments across the nation. In response to a current proposal to amend the evidence rules for federal administrative adjudicators, NCALJ is looking forward to examining those rules in July.

The Division has commenced its efforts to examine the concept of a federal central panel. The JD has established a Task Force that will examine the issues surrounding the issues of and need to protect the judicial independence of our federal administrative adjudicators and explore solutions. The Task Force membership represents a wide variety of stakeholders with the intent to allow all relevant voices to be heard as this initiative is examined and explored. The first, introductory meeting of the Task Force conducted in November was well-received and set the stage for a productive process. Its intent is to produce a well-received resolution that can be brought to the ABA House of Delegates with acclamation.

To accompany that effort, NCALJ has started work on establishing a committee to examine and update the current Model Rules of Judicial Conduct for Federal Administrative Law Judges. The Committee’s goal is to evaluate the current Model Rules, which were last updated in 1996, and to suggest modifications to bring them up to date and able to address current issues facing today’s adjudicators. This Committee will work with the JD and the ABA to make sure the final product meshes with the current philosophy of the various ethical canons to ensure consistency.

The work of NCALJ is to educate, support, and promote the work of our membership, the JD and the ABA. This work is constant, and it’s accomplished through the tireless efforts of our members and the Executive Committee. I personally wish to express my appreciation for all the hard work done by our team. The accomplishments so far have been magnificent. I look forward to seeing the plans of our Programs, Education and Outreach Committee and the Task Force come to fruition. As we carry forward into the New Year, I wish everyone a safe, productive, and accomplished year.

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