The Conference has a history of saving the government and tax-payers money. ACUS has made more than 200 recommendations for improved agency decision-making, judicial oversight of the administrative process and valuable statutory proposals.
But the true value of the Conference is that it promotes greater fairness in the promulgation of agency rules in the administrative process. Nearly every person in this country depends in one way or another upon federal agencies and rules and regulations that protect our health, safety and welfare as Americans.
A Brief History of the Administrative Conference
Following bipartisan endorsement of the work of two temporary Administrative Conferences during the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, Congress enacted the Administrative Conference Act of 1964 in efforts to place the work of ACUS on a more permanent footing. The Act codifies the prior structure for these conferences, which emphasized collaboration among a wide array of federal agencies as well as experts in administrative law and government from the private sector and academia, reflecting a wide diversity of views – all of whom serve without any additional compensation. This collaborative effort is designed to identify consensus recommendations for improvement in the administrative process that affects every sector of our National economy and the lives of American citizens. Judge Barrett Prettyman, who had served as chairman of both temporary conferences, explained at ACUS’ opening plenary session in 1968 that the members of the Conference “have the opportunity to make the administrative part of a democratic system of government work.”
From its beginning in 1968 until its defunding in 1995, ACUS adopted approximately 200 such recommendations, based on careful study and the informed deliberations of its members in an open process that encouraged public input. A complete list of these recommendations was published at 60 Fed. Reg. 56312 (1995). Congress enacted a number of them into law, and agencies and courts have adopted or relied upon many others. ACUS also played a leading role in developing, securing legislation to promote, and providing training in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques for eliminating excessive litigation costs and long delays in Federal agency programs, as well as “negotiated rulemaking” processes for consensual resolution of disputes in rulemaking.
The work of ACUS has received consistent support from a wide range of outside sources. As the Congressional Research Service noted in 2007, ACUS provided “nonpartisan, nonbiased, comprehensive, and practical assessments and guidance with respect to a wide range of agency processes, procedures, and practices,” based on “a meticulous vetting process, which gave its recommendations credence.” Justice Scalia (a former Chairman of ACUS) has viewed the agency as “a unique combination of talents from the academic world, from within the executive branch . . . and . . . from the private bar, especially lawyers particularly familiar with administrative law.” Similarly, Justice Breyer (a former liaison representative to ACUS from the Judicial Conference) has described the agency as “a unique organization, carrying out work that is important and beneficial to the average American, at low cost,” and that “can make it easier for citizens to understand what government agencies are doing to prevent arbitrary government actions that could cause harm.” In announcing his appointment of the members of the ACUS Council, President Obama emphasized the value of the “public-private partnership” reflected in the agency’s enabling statute.
Although ACUS lost its funding in 1995, Congress never repealed the Administrative Conference Act of 1964. In 2004, in response to continued widespread support for the prior work of the agency, Congress reauthorized ACUS, and it extended that reauthorization in 2008. Funding was approved in 2009, and the Conference was officially re-established in March 2010, when the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominee as Chairman, Paul Verkuil.