Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Senate won’t confirm DeSantis’ nominee to be chief administrative judge. (Miami Herald)

Administrative law judges are "the hidden judiciary" who decide key cases at the federal and state levels.  Judicial independence is critical, whether you're a person or a corporation.

Our Florida Senate gets it, and just refused to move on confirmation of an unqualified hobbledehoy in the employ of Gov, RONALD DION DeSANTIS (R-KOCH INDUSTRIES).

When the City of St. Augustine dumped a landfill in a lake 2005-2005, seven of us took it to court.  The court was the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).  Thanks to judicial independence, the landfill is no longer in the lake.

Full disclosure: I was honored to clerk (1986-1988) for U.S. Department of Labor Chief Administrative Law Judge Nahum Litt, who served from 1979-1995, after having been Chief ALJ at the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).  Like Horatio at the bridge Nahmi Litt, who died last year, protected judicial independence.  In his spirit, I represented nine (9) ALJs, including a majority of the ALJs at the U.S. Department of the Interior -- harassed, threatened with firing and retaliated against for insisting on judicial independence under 5 U.S.C. 3105.

In honor of Chief Judge Nahum Litt, we celebrate the day when Florida Senators stopped yet another assault on ALJ judicial independence.

Thank you, m Senators for rejecting John MacIver as CALJ,

From Miami Herald:

Senate won’t confirm DeSantis’ nominee to be chief administrative judge
FEBRUARY 18, 2020 05:00 AM
Miami Herald

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial nominee to lead an obscure but powerful group of state judges won’t be confirmed by the Senate this session, a key Republican senator said Monday.

Citing unspecified concerns, Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, said his committee won’t take up the confirmation of John MacIver, a seven-year attorney with virtually no experience in the courtroom.

“I’ve talked to a lot of folks in the process, and there are a couple of areas where there was some concern,” Hooper said. “I just didn’t have a level of comfort bringing that confirmation forward, because that has my name on it.”

MacIver was DeSantis’ choice to be the chief judge of the Division of Administrative Hearings, whose 29 judges rule on state government issues ranging from workers’ compensation disputes to the locations of nuclear power plants. He’s been in the job since fall, when he was appointed by DeSantis and the Cabinet.

To keep the job, however, he needed to be confirmed by two Senate committees, including Hooper’s Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. The committee met for the last time on Monday without taking up MacIver’s appointment.

“I think it’s now between he and the governor’s office how best they want to go forward,” Hooper said.

If DeSantis doesn’t reappoint him, MacIver will be out of the job. DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré declined to say what the governor will do.

“The governor will review the situation,” she said in a statement.

While obscure, the division is hugely influential in state government. The administrative law judges are supposed to be neutral arbiters on a variety of state issues, and they frequently rule against a governor’s agencies or priorities.

For that reason, multiple former judges told the Times/Herald that governors and lawmakers from both parties had pressured them or their colleagues on particular cases over the decades.

The position came open last year when DeSantis’ general counsel pushed out the division’s previous chief judge, who had decades of legal experience when he was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003. DeSantis then chose MacIver from the only two applicants for the job.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, and former division judges said MacIver did not have enough experience to do the job. MacIver has less experience than the judges he’s overseeing.

“Neither of these candidates rise to the level of what we consider necessary for the chief administrative law judge,” Fried said last year.

But what MacIver lacked in experience, he made up for in connections. Most of his time as a lawyer has been spent working for former Gov. Rick Scott or DeSantis, and he’s a chapter president of the Federalist Society, whose conservative judicial philosophy is shared by DeSantis.

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article240383636.html#storylink=cpy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Governor DeSantis needs to wake up. I do't think he realizes the full extent to which his ability to control and hold accountable and bring badly needed change to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH), an executive branch agency constitutionally under his chain of command is being taken away right before his very eyes.

The Judges of Compensation Claims (JCCs) and the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) both fall under the authority of the Deputy Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge of DOAH. That chief judge is currently John MacIver. The Miami Herald article misses that the ALJs and JCCs are separate branches within DOAH. The ALJ branch with the 29 judges mentioned does not handle workers compensation - the example used. Only the 32 JCCs do. All - both the ALJs and the JCCs - are accountable to and overseen by the Deputy Director and Chief Judge.

Governor DeSantis was 100% justified in asking for and securing former Chief Judge Robert Cohen's resignation. Significant unaddressed problems within the agency cried out for leadership change at DOAH. On the JCC side of DOAH alone, these included notorious laziness (11:00A.M. arrivals at work), chronic dishonesty (years spent falsifying the number of trials reported in the required annual report in a deliberate effort to cover up low work loads) and corruption (covering up for JCC that knowingly highered and harbored an illegal alien; retaliating against whistleblowers). Not surprisingly, DOAH has had to pay out thousands of dollars to address these and other issues. And there's more. Ironically, the same JCC side of DOAH responsible for this mess has successfully pushed bills this session through both chambers of the legislature giving them over $27,000 a year pay raises. Yet this same session, their boss, John MacIver couldn't secure what is usually a rubber-stamp approval.

The Governor was absolutely correct in realizing that DOAH needed a new chief judge. What he didn't correctly assess was the extent to which entrenched interests would fight his efforts to bring about change.