Monthly Archives: January 2013

Secret ALJ Policy for Social Security Disability Hearings

The Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) is now keeping the name of the assigned Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) a secret (from the representative, claimant, and experts) until the day of the hearing. Previously, knowledge of the name of the ALJ as of the setting of the hearing, or as of receipt of the Notice of Hearing, allowed experienced counsel to prepare for the hearing according to the preferences and style of the assigned judge.  In short, attorneys and claimants will not know who their judge is for their hearing, until the day of.

ALJ s vary widely in their approach to hearings, and the inability to prepare for the particular judge has greatly limited the assistance a representative can provide to a claimant. Claimants are also hindered in their pre-hearing communication with ALJs, especially with regard to conflicts, but also with regard to scheduling concerns and evidentiary issues. Some ODARs keep the judge’s name a secret until the morning of the hearing, while others keep it a secret until the hearing begins.

There have been ongoing requests regarding the violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) because of this new policy.  Representatives and claimants feel they should be privy to the information to aid in hearing expectations.  However, the policy remains until further notice.