Nash v. Califano

613 F.2d 10 (2nd Cir. 1980)


P is an Administrative Law Judge in the Social Security Administration's Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. The Bureau's ALJs, under authority directly delegated by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), hold hearings and decide appeals from agency denials of various claims for Social Security benefits. HEW has approximately 650 ALJs divided among 145 field offices, each one headed by an Administrative Law  Judge in Charge (ALJIC), who has managerial and administrative authority over all personnel assigned to his or her field office, in addition to responsibility for the same caseload as other ALJs. ALJICs receive the same salaries as other ALJs. Each ALJIC reports to one of the ten Regional Chief Administrative Law Judges who, in turn, are under the managerial authority of the Director of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals and his chief assistant, the Chief Administrative Law Judge. While Administrative Law Judges are civil service employees, the Director of the Bureau is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. In 1967, P became ALJIC for the Buffalo field office. Trachtenberg was appointed Director of the Bureau and facing a record backlog of 113,000 cases, Trachtenberg instituted many of the reforms long advocated by P and his colleagues. P alleges that Ds and their staff employees have interfered with the decisional independence of the administrative law judges in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Social Security Act and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. P filed a formal grievance. One month later, P was summarily demoted from his position as ALJIC to ALJ, affording him neither a statement of reasons nor any opportunity for a hearing. P filed a lengthy complaint in the District Court seeking his reinstatement as ALJIC, and a judgment declaring invalid a number of official actions performed by Ds. The judge denied P's motion for a preliminary injunction. P filed an amended complaint challenging six allegedly unlawful practices instituted by Ds, and carefully avoided any mention of his demotion. P challenged D's 'Regional Office Peer Review Program.' Ds give each ALJ detailed, mandatory instructions concerning the proper length of hearings and opinions, the amount of evidence required in specific cases, and the proper use of expert witnesses. P alleges that Ds have arrogated to themselves the power to control the conduct of hearings vested in ALJs by the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 556. P objects to mandatory quotas. Unless an ALJ renders a specified number of decisions per month, D threatens to file incompetence charges against him with the Civil Service Commission. P contends that this constitutes a performance rating forbidden by the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 4301(2)(E) and 5 C.F.R. § 930.211. D has instituted a 'Quality Assurance Program,' which attempts to control the number of decisions denying Social Security Benefits. The agency has 'let it be known' that the average 50% 'reversal rate' for all ALJs is an 'acceptable' one. Appellant further claims in his amended complaint that the reversal rates of all ALJs are monitored, and those who deviate from the mean are counseled and admonished to bring their rates in line with the national average. P contends that this violates 5 U.S.C. §§ 556 & 3105 and the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Under an 'Employee Pool System' many of the ALJs' judicial responsibilities including the writing of decisions are vested in clerical and managerial personnel. The use of such 'mass production' techniques, it is charged, violates 5 U.S.C. §§ 556(c) & 3105. The judge dismissed the amended complaint for lack of standing. P appealed.