Judge Posner: Administrative Law Judges Are Like Chicken-Factory Workers


The Association of Administrative Law Judges brought a suit contending that their caseload — which is now around 500-700 cases a year — was so high that it was infringing on their right to decisional independence. ALJs are Article I judges, not fancy Article III judges like Judge Richard Posner and the rest of the Seventh Circuit. When the suit made its way in front of the ever irascible Posner, he was what can charitably be described as less than sympathetic.

Posner compared the judge’s claim to that of a poultry worker on an assembly line who is asked to debone more chickens per hour.

“He will spend less time deboning each chicken than he might think desirable to make sure no bits of bone are left in the chicken when it leaves his work station on the conveyor belt. In other words, the quality of his output would decline. Yet he would not be heard to claim that his decisional independence was being compromised,” the opinion stated.

The court found that a reduced caseload might permit ALJs to make better benefits decisions, but that their current caseload does not interfere with their ability to make an independent decision.

Shorter Judge Posner: suck it, ALJs.

Featured image: “Close up of poultry processing in food industry” from Shutterstock.


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