Bar Bulletin

December, 2004

Administrative Law Judges Convene in Baltimore
By Janet Stidman Eveleth

On November 3, 130+ administrative law judges gathered in Baltimore for the National Association of Administrative Law Judges’ (NAALJ) 30th annual national conference at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel. Over the course of the five-day event, the audience of administrative law judges, attorneys and other officials delved into contemporary administrative law issues and trends. The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) was a co-sponsor of the NAALJ Conference.

University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Gilbert A. Holmes, whose law school houses NAALJ’s headquarters, opened the conference, then Jervis S. Finney, Legal Counsel to the Governor, offered greetings on behalf of Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich. Finney cited the important role administrative law judges play in Maryland and across the nation.

This sentiment was echoed by Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who traced the creation and development of Maryland’s centralized Office of Administrative Hearings and recognized NAALJ Executive Director John Hardwicke, former OAH chief judge, for his efforts in establishing the agency. “OAH is dedicated to treating people fairly in the due process of law,” stated Hardwicke.

A number of timely topics were addressed, including ethics, diversity, the pros and cons of central panels, professionalism, pro se representation, mediation and judicial writing. A number of Maryland attorneys and judges were speakers and attendees. Administrative Judge Joan Gordon, a former MSBA Ethics Committee Chair, addressed ethical issues and violations of the code. The administrative judges also attempted to define professionalism. They consider professionalism “the highest standard expected of all lawyers,” and ethics “the minimum standard expected for all lawyers.”

A panel of Maryland state agency chiefs debated the pros and cons of Maryland’s current OAH structure. “Central panels hold the government accountable,” stated Kenneth D. Schisler, Chair of Maryland’s Public Service Commission. “This leads to better regulations, which better serves the public. Administrative law judges address voids in the law.” James D. Fielder, the head of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, added, “OAH is an independent arbiter that removes politics.”

Although the majority supported a centralized system, there was one dissenter, the Board of Physician Quality Assurance. Tom Keech, Board Counsel, wants doctors exempted. He advocates the removal of medical malpractice cases from Maryland’s OAH because “administrative law judges don’t know medicine or understand medical standards. They lack the medical background to judge quality, so they judge quantity.” Keech feels the Board’s panel of physicians should handle hearings for doctors, as opposed to OAH.

Maryland attorneys offered their own views on the overall OAH process. “In trial, you present your evidence with the jury in mind,” explains Kenneth Armstrong. “At an OAH hearing, you persuade by establishing a record. The emotional issues are removed. It is hard for lawyers to make this transition, and it is not something you learn in law school or a CLE course.”

Overall response to the conference was positive. “It has been very successful,” stated NAALJ President Chris Graham. “We’ve had outstanding CLE programs and a good turnout.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: December, 2004

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