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Classification & Qualifications General Schedule Qualification Standards

Qualification Standard For Administrative Law Judge Positions

BACKGROUND

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) function was created by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in 1946 to ensure fairness in administrative proceedings before Federal Government agencies.

ALJs serve as independent impartial triers of fact in formal proceedings requiring a decision on the record after the opportunity for a hearing. In general, ALJs prepare for and preside at formal proceedings required by statute to be held under or in accordance with provisions of the APA, codified, in relevant part, in sections 553 through 559 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.). ALJs rule on preliminary motions, conduct pre-hearing conferences, issue subpoenas, conduct hearings (which may include written and/or oral testimony and cross-examination), review briefs, and prepare and issue decisions, along with written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The Federal Government employs ALJs in a number of agencies throughout the United States. Cases may involve Federal laws and regulations in such areas as admiralty, advertising, antitrust, banking, communications, energy, environmental protection, food and drugs, health and safety, housing, immigration, interstate commerce, international trade, labor management relations, securities and commodities markets, social security disability and other benefits claims, and transportation.

QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

An applicant must meet both the licensure and experience requirements and pass the OPM administrative law judge competitive examination to qualify for an ALJ position.

    1. Licensure

      Applicants must be licensed and authorized to practice law under the laws of a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territorial court established under the United States Constitution throughout the selection process, including any period on the standing register of eligibles. Judicial status is acceptable in lieu of "active" status in States that prohibit sitting judges from maintaining "active" status to practice law. Being in "good standing" is acceptable in lieu of "active" status in States where the licensing authority considers "good standing" as having a current license to practice law.

    2. Experience

      Qualifying Experience

      Applicants must have a full seven (7) years of experience as a licensed attorney preparing for, participating in, and/or reviewing formal hearings or trials involving litigation and/or administrative law at the Federal, State or local level.

      Cases must have been conducted on the record under procedures at least as formal as those prescribed by sections 553 through 559 of title 5, U.S.C.

      Qualifying litigation experience involves cases in which a complaint was filed with a court, or a charging document (e.g., indictment or information) was issued by a court, a grand jury, or appropriate military authority, and includes:

      • participating in settlement or plea negotiations in advance of trial;
      • preparing for trial and/or trial of cases;
      • preparing opinions;
      • hearing cases;
      • participating in or conducting arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution approved by the court; or
      • participating in appeals related to the types of cases above.

      Qualifying administrative law experience involves cases in which a formal procedure was initiated by a governmental administrative body and includes:

      • participating in settlement negotiations in advance of hearing cases;
      • preparing for hearing and/or trial of cases;
      • preparing opinions;
      • hearing cases;
      • participating in or conducting arbitration, mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution approved by the administrative body; or
      • participating in appeals related to the types of cases above.

      Non-qualifying Experience

      Experience involving cases with no formal hearing procedure and uncontested cases involving misdemeanors, probate, domestic relations, or tort matters is not qualifying.

    3. Examination

      Applicants are required to pass an examination, the purpose of which is to evaluate the competencies/knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) essential to performing the work of an Administrative Law Judge.

CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT

ALJs must be held to a high standard of conduct to maintain the integrity and independence of the administrative judiciary. As a condition of employment, all ALJs must meet the licensure requirement stated in Part II Qualification Requirements. Incumbent ALJs must continue to meet this condition throughout the duration of their employment. This requirement also applies to former ALJs who are reinstated or reemployed as Senior ALJs. Judicial status is acceptable in lieu of "active" status in States that prohibit sitting judges from maintaining "active" status to practice law. Being in "good standing" is acceptable in lieu of "active" status in States where the licensing authority considers "good standing" as having a current license to practice law.

Note: On July 18, 2008, the Office of Personnel Management issued an interim rule, 73 FR 41235, suspending the requirement in 5 CFR 930.204(b) that requires incumbent ALJs to "possess a professional license to practice law and be authorized to practice law".

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