Review of Administrative Law Judge Activity and Hearing Process at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

EMD-79-28: Published: Feb 13, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1979.

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An examination was conducted of the practices of Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as well as the practices of all parties in selected FERC proceedings to determine where delays were occurring in the hearing process and why. The issues addressed include: how ALJs budget their time; what is done to monitor their caseload; how assignments are made to them; how often they schedule hearings and on what days; the causes of delay in handling cases; and to what extent parties to a proceeding cause or substantially contribute to delay. All available FERC and ALJ records were examined covering progress on regulatory cases for which ALJ initial decisions were issued over the last 6 months of fiscal year 1978.

The officials interviewed and the records examined indicated that the responsibility for time consumption during the various stages of the hearing process was not typically attributable to any one party or group of parties. All parties consumed variable portions of time from one case to the next. Considerations for due process of law and judgmental decisionmaking on the part of FERC and ALJs made it difficult to determine whether the time consumed was justified or not. In the absence of specific guidelines or criteria with which to verify the existence of delay, no attempt was made to define actions that resulted in additional time taken during the hearing process as delay. Instead, the extent and cause of time consumption during selected hearings were determined. Few of the actions taken by FERC to increase the efficiency of operations have had any positive impact and fewer have been aimed at improving the hearing process. Much of FERC's existing manpower and resources are being committed to implementing the additional responsibilities that were recently conferred upon FERC under the National Energy Act of 1978.

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