Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) introduced legislation yesterday that would place the government's 1,121 administrative law judges in a special corps outside the control of the federal agencies they serve.
The proposed administrative law judge service would be similar to the Senior Executive Service for high-ranking federal employes, except that the judges would not be answerable to the heads of the departments or agencies that employ them to hear appeals of agency policy decisions. SES members, on the other hand, are very much under the control of their agencies' political bosses.
Some of the judges, who wield tremendous clout because they are the court of last resort in administrative matters, have complained of political pressures they encounter when making their decisions. Those decisions can cost -- or save -- the government millions of dollars and, in effect, set policy.
Most of the judges earn between $52,262 and $67,940 a year and are in Grades 15 and 16. The largest number of them work for the Social Security Administration, the National Labor Relations Board and the Labor Department.
Glickman, a one-time attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, would have the judges report to a chief judge rather than to the heads of agencies or departments.
The administrative law judges wrote the book on upward mobility in government. Until a few years ago they were graded lower, and called "hearing examiners." But they conducted an intensive and successful lobbying effort for a change in title and status.