Per the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, any presiding employee or an employee qualified to preside at administrative hearings may initially decide a case before an agency.[i] When the presiding employee makes an initial decision, that decision becomes the decision of the agency without further proceedings.[ii]
In Bing Feng Chen v. INS, 87 F.3d 5, 7 (1st Cir. 1996), the court held that, if a reviewing agency decides that the facts and evaluative judgments from the facts are adequately confronted and correctly resolved by a hearing officer, the agency is free to adopt the findings. However, the opinion or order should clearly indicate that it gave individualized attention to the case and elected to adopt the trier’s words.
An agency should announce its decision in terms sufficient to enable a reviewing court to perceive it has heard and thought and not merely reacted.[iii] In Guentchev v. INS, 77 F.3d 1036 (7th Cir. 1996), the court held that an agency’s decision in terms sufficient for a reviewing court to satisfy that the agency considered the case is a norm of administrative law.
In Barber v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 870 F. Supp. 181, 185 ( E.D. Mich. 1994), the court held that presiding employee has powers to adopt administrative regulations applicable to the administrative decision-making process, and the court should defer to such regulation in determining whether there is substantial evidence to uphold the presiding employee’s finding of facts. However presiding employee does not have power to adopt regulations limiting Court’s discretion in determining whether to remand for an award of benefits or for further administrative proceedings.
[i] 5 USCS § 557
[ii] 5 USCS § 557
[iii] Rodriguez-Rivera v. INS, 993 F.2d 169 (8th Cir. 1993)