Serving as Chair of NCALJ from September 1, 2022 through August 2023 is a tremendous privilege. When I joined NCALJ in August 2015 - two years after I became an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the California Public Utilities Commission - I was simply seeking opportunities to cross-pollinate with others working in similar roles in other settings. I hoped this JD conference would provide depth to my judicial “toolkit” and help me adjust my perspective from that of a 20+ years litigation attorney to that of an impartial decisionmaker. After seven years, participation in this conference has not only met, but exceeded my expectations. Let me tell you why.
NCALJ is comprised of ALJs and other administrative adjudicators (AJs) who preside within the various federal agencies of the Executive branch of government as well as within state agencies in all fifty states. The administrative judiciary is the face of the judiciary for the vast majority of our nation’s citizens. The average citizen - unless accused of a crime - is more likely to appear before a judge within the administrative judiciary than an Article III Judge. My NCALJ colleagues preside over every imaginable subject area.
Federal ALJs and AJs are independent triers of fact who decide thousands of cases annually involving a wide array of issues and disputes between the public and federal agencies. Such matters can include social security benefits, veterans, and immigration issues, as well as cases arising under federal fair housing, labor relations, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission statutes and maritime laws to name a few.
Likewise, citizens regularly appear before state ALJs on thousands of cases involving employment discrimination, workers compensation, disability, unemployment, motor vehicles, special education, public utility matters, and issues involving licensing (legal, medical, contractors, CPAs and real estate professionals). Matters before state public utilities commissions and the federal communications commission typically involve complex corporate litigation involving millions and often billions in dispute.
Participation in this conference has given me an appreciation and understanding of the breadth of the administrative law judiciary and the myriad ways in they enhance the efficiency of our justice system. I encourage every adjudicator reading this message to renew your membership in our conference. Encourage at least one of your colleagues to give NCALJ a try. I also welcome lawyers who appear before ALJs and other AJs to join the Lawyers Conference. The $35 enrollment will yield enormous dividends.
We promise a year of innovative programs and many opportunities to collaborate with colleagues within the Judicial Division as well as with other sections within the ABA. This year, the Executive Committee plans to involve members in the work of NCALJ as never before. We want your input and toward this end – we ask you to tune into our regularly scheduled online Executive Committee meetings and to join us at our first-ever NCALJ Virtual Town Hall – on November 2. Check the NCALJ website for dates and times of our meetings, for news, and for other updates and events.
I also hope to greet you in-person at the ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans (February 1-6, 2023).