On June 24, AABANY’s Judiciary Committee hosted a virtual discussion on how to become an administrative law judge (ALJ), as part of the Committee’s Road to the Bench series. Panelists included Hon. Kenneth Chu, Administrative Law Judge at the National Labor Relations Board; Hon. Grace E. Lee, Administrative Law Judge at the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance; Hon. Christopher P. Lee, Retired Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration; and Rena Malik, Principal Law Clerk at the New York State Supreme Court and Co-Chair of AABANY’s Judiciary Committee. The panel was moderated by Mark Son, Associate Court Attorney at the Bronx County Criminal Court.
The roundtable discussion began with a question from Mark asking the panelists to describe their path towards becoming an ALJ. Judge Grace Lee shared how her passion for justice and public service inspired her to take on various roles in government and public policy, which ultimately led her to taking the Civil Service Exam and landing her current position as an ALJ at the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Judge Chu spoke about his longtime interest in employment and labor law and how he applied for the ALJ position at the National Labor Relations Board while serving as an administrative judge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Judge Chris Lee detailed the seven year process he underwent when applying for the ALJ position because he missed the deadline to apply in 1987 and had to wait until 1994 for a new position opening.
The remainder of the roundtable discussion focused on questions about the ALJ application process. Previously, all applicants applied through the Office of Personnel Management, but after changes enacted under the Trump Administration, applicants now apply through individual agencies’ vacancy announcements. Judge Grace Lee explained the process of completing the Civil Service/Legal Specialities Exam, a questionnaire where applicants can explain their skills and experiences for agencies to review. Asked about the skills and experiences ALJ applicants should have, the panelists agreed that it is important to be able to process a lot of information quickly, while also being detail-oriented and conscientious about due process. It is also helpful for applicants to have litigation experience.
The discussion concluded with Rena sharing how the AABANY Judiciary Committee can assist interested candidates. A main goal of the Judiciary Committee is to advance Asian American and Pacific Islander attorneys onto judgeship positions in all levels of the benches, and the Committee can assist applicants by providing a recommendation letter or connecting applicants with current employees at agencies. To learn more about AABANY’s Judiciary Committee, click here.