H.R. 6768, a Bill To Reform the Selection and Oversight of Administrative Law Judges
May 6, 1980
The need for changes in how Federal Administrative Law Judges (ALJ's) are managed and solutions for reforming the selection and evaluation of ALJ's as proposed by a House bill are discussed. Presently, there are about 1,100 ALJ's who work in 29 agencies, with about 60 percent of them working for the Social Security Administration on benefit claims cases. What makes ALJ's different from other Federal employees, and thus significant from a personnel management perspective, is that agencies are precluded by statute from appraising their ALJ's performance in order to guarantee decisional independence from the employing agency. Without evaluating ALJ performance, agencies are unable to: make the most efficient use of ALJ's, plan for ALJ requirements to meet caseloads, aid the ALJ's in continuing their best work through appropriate development, identify unsatisfactory performers, and let the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) know how its selection process is working. GAO believes that ALJ's are agency personnel, and that personnel management for them should be no different than that for other civil service personnel as long as they are not interfered with in making decisions. While the House bill proposes an ALJ term of office of 7 years, GAO believes that it is more important to have an ongoing performance appraisal process so that those unsuited to the job could be counseled or removed. The bill also provides for a pay performance award program. GAO believes a performance appraisal process should be developed, implemented, and proven effective before pay performance awards could be paid, and awards should be made on the basis of merit alone. GAO recommends that the administration of ALJ's remain in OPM rather than be assigned to the Administrative Conference.