Annual Meeting

Model code of conduct for state administrative law judges adopted by ABA House

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State administrative law judges aren’t covered by judicial conduct rules for judicial-branch judges, but many states don’t have adequate rules for protecting their independence, North Carolina chief administrative law judge Julian Mann III told the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Annual Meeting on Monday in Chicago.

That’s why the House on Tuesday agreed to adopt Resolution 113, which offers model rules of conduct for ALJs and urges jurisdictions to adopt ethical principles consistent with those model rules.

Mann explained that administrative law judges are subject to executive-branch control, which puts them outside the ambit of state judicial conduct codes and makes them vulnerable to inappropriate interference from executive-branch officials. Most often, ethical rules that apply to lawyers apply to ALJs, he said, even though they’re not designed for people in a judicial role.

“This code is welcomed by the administrative law judiciary, executive branch managers, the judicial branch and the public,” said Mann. “[With the model rules], administrative law judiciary conformity is not left to ambiguous interpretations or applications of other professional codes.”

On a point of personal privilege, Mann added that the resolution was originally to be moved by retired administrative law judge Larry Craddock of Austin, Texas, who passed away before the Annual Meeting.

Delegate Mary Kelly, an administrative law judge in Los Angeles, took the floor in support of the resolution, saying it’s not an abstract question—thousands of administrative law judges around the country face threats to their judicial independence. Kelly added that she greatly appreciates support the resolution received from outgoing ABA President Hilarie Bass.

“I told my colleagues that I was the oldest of eight and didn’t have a big brother or sister,” Kelly said. “But when I read that letter from Bass to the House Rules Committee, I not only felt like I had a really powerful big sister, I felt like I had an entire family: the ABA.”

The resolution passed without audible disagreement.

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