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Indiana has new ALJ chapter

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Two state government attorneys have founded the Indiana chapter of the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary. Their goal is to organize and connect those individuals in the state who are working in an ALJ capacity.

A kickoff luncheon on Nov. 4 marked the beginning of the organization’s new Hoosier affiliate, which joins more than a dozen other jurisdictions with local chapters. The NAALJ is a non-profit entity founded in Illinois in 1974, and it describes itself as the “largest professional organization devoted exclusively to administrative adjudication within the executive branch of government.”

The national organization says its mission is “to promote an impartial, professional administrative judiciary that adheres to high ethical standards and furthers the recognition and understanding of its necessary role in the function of government.”

In Indiana, attorneys Linda B. Klain and Catherine Gibbs – both ALJs in the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Adjudication – founded the Hoosier chapter after seeing firsthand the loose network of ALJs who work in the state.

“We have many talented, career people who aren’t lawyers working as administrative law judges in many state and even federal branches of government,” said Klain, who’s been a part-time ALJ for about three years. “But we really don’t know how many there are, because everyone’s kind of practicing in isolation on the basis that we’re supposed to be independent and neutral. We just don’t communicate and it’s all word of mouth without much structure.”

Currently, Indiana’s state agencies use ALJs on a case-by-case basis, and no one tracks their use on a statewide basis. Each agency must be contacted, but not every agency keeps accurate tabs on how many ALJs it uses in a given year. A study determined the state had more than 50 ALJs within various agencies at one point in 2008, but the examination wasn’t comprehensive and didn’t include all departments.

Klain hopes the group can organize to connect and meet other ALJs to discuss issues and trends, as well as increase professionalism and education. One potential area of discussion involves centralizing ALJs, as well as whether individuals serving in that role should be lawyers. Those are topics the Indiana General Assembly has studied in recent years, but no revision of the state’s existing ALJ process has occurred.

“Some things are universal no matter where you practice as an ALJ,” Klain said. “We hope this will be a positive force in our agencies and in the legal community.”

The next organizational meeting will be in December, though a date has not been set. Klain said the group will discuss potential bylaws and organizational structure, with an advisor from the Kentucky chapter present. Attorney and non-lawyer ALJs are welcome to attend, and more information can be obtained by contacting Klain at 317-518-1100.
 

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