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Are ALJ Decisions the Last Word on Agency Policy?

How much weight is given to a verdict rendered by an administrative law judge? Professor Jennifer Mascott explains that the answer varies from agency to agency. Ultimately, the head of an agency is responsible for agency action and policies, but an ALJ decision can influence the final outcome of how policy is executed. https://youtube.com/watch?v=737di3gd9ag


Different agencies have different rules about how much deference or how close of a review an Administrative Law Judges decisions should receive. In the Securities and Exchange Commission for example, the Securities and Exchange Commissioners don't actually have to give any weight necessarily to the Administrative Law Judges decision, the commission could just decide to do the opposite in a particular case. However, that is not all that frequent that that necessarily happen. It's also possible for an Administrative Law Judges decision to basically be given a rubber stamp of approval, a final stamp of approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission and permitted to go out the door as it was put together by the Administrative Law Judge but in the authority or the name of the Securities and Exchange Commission. So within each agency there might be a difference based on how the statute or the law governing that agency is written but as to how much review an Administrative Law Judges decision should receive In some agencies the commissioner or the head of the agency can change the decision and do something totally different from scratch or decide the case in place of an ALJ. At certain times some ALJ's decisions might get a little bit of deference or thumb on the scale in favor of some of the ALJ's determinations. But typically at the end of the day, the head of the agency has to at least sign off on the ALJ decision that it was correct before it becomes the final decision of the agency, in most cases. Even after that, typically a party can if they don't like the way that the agency decided their case can then challenge that decision within a federal court. The question becomes if you go to a federal court, a lot of times federal courts under the law are supposed to give a lot of deference or weight to what the administrative agencies already determined on the facts and so, or on policy decisions and so a litigant is not necessarily getting a determination of their issues from scratch within the federal court even through there is certainly review in the federal courts usually of administrative agency, ALJ decision.

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