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Survey of Administrative Law Judge Salaries*

Administrative Law Judge Salaries

Administrative law judges employed by the executive branches of government receive various forms of remuneration for the performance of their important services. These include retirement pensions; disability; paid holiday, vacation and sick leave; and medical and other forms of insurance. However, the most important form of compensation is salary.

To achieve the highest standard of administrative justice, it is essential that administrative law judge salaries be sufficient to attract the best possible candidates to the administrative judiciary and to retain experienced judges. Hopefully, this Survey of Administrative Law Judge Salaries will help state executive authorities establish appropriate salary levels for their administrative law judges and improve the administration of justice.

The national salary survey was conducted by the NAALJ Judicial Compensation Committee with the assistance of the staff of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. The survey is intended to be one of the most extensive ever conducted. It surveys the salary ranges as of January 1, 1997, of administrative law judge/hearing officers of ten types employed by the fifty states and the District of Columbia. It also surveys the salary ranges of central panel administrative law judges employed by various identified states. It also attempts to compare similar federal administrative law judge/hearing examiner positions and the salaries of judicial branch trial judges.

Administrative Law Judge Defined

While "administrative law judge" is the most modern and currently most accepted title, these positions may be addressed or classified under a state personnel system as administrative judges, hearing officers, hearing examiners, appeals referees, arbitrators, magistrates, and other titles. However, they perform basically the same function, they preside over hearings, make findings of fact and conclusions of law, and issue decisions concerning contested adjudicative proceedings under state administrative jurisdiction. While these positions may often require a law degree, in other jurisdictions they may not, while still performing comparable functions. This survey compares both attorney and non-attorney administrative law judge positions.

The positions surveyed do not primarily manage other administrative law judges or other positions. Beside their hearing duties, these positions might also render opinions on points of law and policy, advise other agency officials including administrative law judges, develop rules and have support personnel report to them. They might act as a "team leader" for other administrative law judges, but their primary function is to act as the presiding officer at administrative hearings and perform related duties associated with that function.

Despite comparable functions and work, most often a state will classify and compensate administrative law judges differently. Accordingly, the survey reviewed the minimum and maximum salary range of administrative law judges presiding over hearings in ten subject matter areas, namely:

1. Enforcement of public health laws (Health).

2. Enforcement of human rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, or other invidious classifications (Human Rights).

3. Motor vehicle licensing (Motor Vehicle).

4. Enforcement of laws concerning pollution control or environmental safety (Pollutn Control).

5. Regulation and licensing of professions (Prof Reg).

6. Income, sales or similar tax liability under a state's general revenue law (Tax).

7. Eligibility of claimants or employment tax liability of employers under state unemployment insurance law (UI).

8. Regulation of public utilities including the rates utilities charge for their services (Utility Reg).

9. Eligibility for public assistance benefits or services under public social welfare law (Welfare).

10. Workers' compensation (Workrs Comp).

The salaries of administrative law judges employed by 23 states in centralized offices of administrative hearings or central panels holding hearings over various areas of law are identified as (Central OAH).

If a state employs more than one classification to perform one or more of the above descriptions of work, the information provided is the minimum salary of the lowest classification and the maximum salary of the highest. In some cases, the administrative law judges employed to perform such duties are part-time or hired at a contractual rate, such as per hour or diem.

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted primarily through freedom of information requests filed with the personnel administration offices of the various states and the several central panel office directors. Judicial salaries were courteously provided by the National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg, VA. Missing information generally means a lack of response or knowledge from that state contact or that no position consistent with the work description or no identifiable class (nic) could be specified. Often, such a response might indicate that the primary duties of such positions may not include those of a presiding officer at administrative hearings. The survey was intended to compare presiding officer salary ranges as of January 1, 1997, only, and not the salaries of positions whose primary duties involve managerial or other functions. The survey also does not include the value of other benefits provided administrative law judges, only gross annual salary compensation.

Additional notes are provided at the bottom of the page. All figures are rounded to nearest dollar.

You can also download the administrative law judge salaries table (January 1, 1997) in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.

Survey Comments

Administrative law judges, by whatever title a jurisdiction applies to them, are essential to the administration of justice and an integral and basic component of government. Despite the importance of these positions, these positions are still, in many respects, the "hidden judiciary." The salary paid to administrative law judges should be indicative of the importance of these positions.

All the positions surveyed, including the Article III judges of the judicial branch, perform comparable functions. They all preside over tribunals deciding adjudicative controversies where findings of fact and conclusions of law are made. Despite the performance of comparable functions, except for a few more progressive state jurisdictions, there are substantial discrepancies between compensation among administrative law judges within most state jurisdictions. The Judicial Compensation Committee of the National Association of Administrative Law Judges believes that there is little rationale basis for substantial disparity between the salaries paid to administrative law judges within a jurisdiction. Generally, administrative law judges should, within a jurisdiction, be uniformly titled and comparably classified and compensated, regardless of the type of cases they hear.

A number of the states pay their administrative law judges salaries that compare with those paid that state's Article III judges. Often such states pay their administrative law judges salaries that are 70 to 85 percent of what judicial branch judges are paid. However, despite comparable functions, other states pay their administrative law judges less than half of what that state's judicial branch judges are paid.

The Judicial Compensation Committee believes that states should use Article III judges compensation as a comparable basis for state administrative law judges.

Judicial Compensation Committee

Stanley J. Cygan, Manager, Administrative Hearings-Tax, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Chair

Ruth Astle, Administrative Law Judge, California Office of Administrative Hearings

Bruce Cooper, Administrative Law Judge, Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings

Marvin F. Kitrell, Chief Judge, South Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings

Willie C. Thompson, Jr., Administrative Law Judge, Virginia Employment Commission; President, National Association of Administrative Law Judges, ex officio

Luke Bierman, Staff Director, Judicial Division, American Bar Association: Secretariat, National Association of Administrative Law Judges, ex officio

National Association of Administrative Law Judges

The National Association of Administrative Law Judges is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to the improvement of administrative adjudication. Established in 1974, NAALJ strives to enhance the quality of administrative justice and to improve the process of dispute resolution. It provides a forum for exchanging ideas and information, conducts seminars and conferences, publishes a journal and newsletter, and confers with officials of state and federal governments on methods of improving administrative justice. The National Adminstrative Law Judge Foundation, incorporated by NAALJ in 1980, is expressly devoted to the public interest. It sponsors two annual scholarships to the National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada, annual fellowships for the study of administrative adjudication and other educational efforts.


*Published by the National Association of Administrative Law Judges (NAALJ), Summer 1997

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