Jim Rossi


This essay addresses how ALJ final order authority in many state systems of administrative governance (among them Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and South Carolina) poses a tension between independence and accountability. It is argued that political accountability is sacrificed where reviewing courts defer to ALJ final orders on issues of law and policy. Standards of review provide state courts with a way of restoring the balance between independence and accountability, but reviewing courts should heighten the deference they give to the agency's legal and policy positions -- giving little or no deference to the ALJ on these issues -- even where the ALJ's decision had final status.