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Celebration Files Amicus Brief Regarding ALJ Authority

On March 8, 2017, the Celebration and SHOW filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This Court recently agreed to decide two cases that challenge the role of Administrative Law Judges in agency enforcement proceedings. The issue is whether these Judges are lawfully appointed under the Constitution. The Court's decision will have consequences for all agency enforcement systems involving ALJs.

In the D.C. cases, the government takes the position that the role of ALJs has been created by Congress, and over seven decades these systems have  worked well because ALJs really have limited powers, do not make final decisions, and merely assist superior officers, like the agency head, who makes the final decision. That is not true in the USDA, and particularly under the Horse Protection Act. Indeed, USDA ALJs make about 90% of the final decisions, and if an ALJ were to find for a respondent in an HPA case, in all likelihood, the USDA’s Judicial Officer would reverse it.  

Several respondents, in the rash of HPA cases filed recently arising from VMO inspections at the 2016 Celebration, are challenging the role of ALJs in the USDA administrative enforcement system. The Celebration and SHOW believe that by informing the D.C. Court that the government’s description of the role of ALJs is not correct as to all agencies, that the Court might have information that will help it reach a conclusion that assists respondents in HPA enforcement proceedings

The two cases in D.C. will be argued and submitted May 24, 2017. It could be as long as the end of the year before we know the outcome.

Click here to view the amicus brief. 

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