Dear Colleagues:

If you are asking yourself, why should I join FORUM? Here’s why. In 1974, a study group led by a deputy general counsel at the Civil Service Commission recommended that a “Unified Corps” be created for all federal ALJs. Beginning in 1983, a parade of ALJ Corps bills have been regularly introduced in Congress designed to separate ALJs from their agencies. The common purpose of these bills is to remove the ALJ Program from OPM and establish a centralized administrative authority to be led by a Chief ALJ or director to oversee and implement the ALJ Program. Proponents argued that significant costs savings would be achieved through the consolidation of facilities, legal staffs, receptionists, docketing clerks, and law libraries. Centrally controlled ALJs would be fungible and made available to hear cases arising in any federal agency as needed in order to tackle ever present case backlogs.

FORUM was formed in 1983 by ALJs who were concerned that the creation of an ALJ Corps was ill-advised and not necessary. FORUM recognized that these bills were fundamentally flawed because they diminished ALJ agency expertise, thereby undermining the very foundation of ALJ legitimacy. FORUM agreed with the Administrative Conference of the United States that found that “the case for establishing an independent ALJ Corps … has not been made.” Many federal agencies, including Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, the Occupational Safety and Health Review and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commissions, and the Federal Labor Relations Authority, have opposed legislation calling for the reorganization of the federal administrative law judiciary and the creation of an ALJ Corps. Many members of FORUM believe that enactment of such a bill would be the death knell of the ALJ positions in agencies that adjudicate adversarial proceedings, as we now know them.

FORUM is a low dues professional organization of federal ALJs. Active ALJs pay only $10 and retired ALJs pay $5; annually. FORUM is a much lower cost alternative to the Association of Administrative Law Judges Union (AALJ), The Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference (FALJC), and the ABA’s National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary (ABA). The AALJ represents the interests of the 1,500 Social Security ALJs. The ABA focuses much of its attention upon state ALJs. FORUM primarily focuses on the 250 federal ALJs generally engaged in adversarial proceedings. FORUM’s interests may not always align with these other organizations. FORUM has historically opposed the ALJ Corps bills, while the AALJ, FALJC and ABA have not. FORUM also supports the ALJ Judicial Ethics Act of 2013, which calls for the application of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges to federal ALJs.

Very Cordially;

Dennis L. Phillips [FORUM President]