Legislation has been reintroduced in Congress to restore Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to competitive service.
The bill is an attempt to reverse an executive order that President Trump issued last year which allows agency heads to directly hire ALJs without going through the Office of Personnel Management selection process.
The EO created a new excepted service “schedule E” for this purpose. In effect, it means that the head of an agency can appoint people into ALJ positions without going through a competitive examination and selection procedures.
Shortly after Trump issued the EO, legislation was introduced in the Senate to restore ALJs to competitive service. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced that bill and said at the time that they felt that ALJs could be selected on the basis of their political views rather than on merit. The bill ultimately failed to advance.
Now some Congressmen are making a second effort to undo President Trump’s executive order. The ALJ Competitive Service Restoration Act (H.R. 2429) would revert the hiring process back to how it was previously and restore the ALJ hiring process to competitive service.
The bill is sponsored by Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD). He says it is necessary because the change brought about by the EO allows “federal agencies to appoint ALJs based on politics and nepotism.”
The bill has 9 co-sponsors as of the time of this writing. The Congressmen backing the bill said in a joint statement:
We are pleased to introduce this legislation to ensure the integrity and impartiality of decisions that affect the lives of millions of Americans. These decisions have a significant impact on their Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation, and veterans’ benefits, as well as claims of discrimination, unfair labor practices, and securities fraud. Lives would be disrupted if independent adjudicators were replaced by partisan judges whose appointments were based on politics. Congress would not be fulfilling its Constitutional duty of oversight if it allowed the politicization of the corps of independent adjudicators who are responsible for protecting the due process rights of the American people.