Administrative Law Judges FAQs

Q: When do Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) get involved in a case?

A: A case is sent to an ALJ when:

  • A formal complaint is filed that does not request an informal small claims procedure.
  • An informal small claims complaint is filed and the other party does not agree to the informal procedure.
  • The Commission assigns an Order of Investigation and Hearing to the Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Q: Do I need an attorney if my case is assigned to an ALJ?

A: You have the right to be represented by an attorney or qualified representative or you may choose to represent yourself. An organization such as a corporation or partnership may be represented by an attorney, qualified representative, or by an officer, partner, or regular employee of the organization.

Q: What is the ALJ authorized to do?

A: An ALJ performs the same function as a judge in a trial court and is authorized to:

  1. administer oaths and affirmations;
  2. issue subpoenas authorized by law;
  3. rule on offers of proof and receive relevant evidence;
  4. take depositions or have depositions taken when the ends of justice would be served;
  5. regulate the course of the hearing;
  6. hold conferences for the settlement or simplification of the issues by consent of the parties or by the use of alternative means of dispute resolution as provided in subchapter IV of this chapter;
  7. inform the parties as to the availability of one or more alternative means of dispute resolution, and encourage use of such methods;
  8. require the attendance at any conference held pursuant to paragraph (6) of at least one representative of each party who has authority to negotiate concerning resolution of issues in controversy;
  9. dispose of procedural requests or similar matters;
  10. make or recommend decisions; and
  11. take other action authorized by agency rule.

Q: How does the ALJ resolve disputes?

A: The ALJ may:

  • Refer the dispute to a Commission mediator
  • Establish a procedure to gather necessary evidence
  • Allow parties to review each others’ evidence
  • Review documents and arguments submitted by the parties
  • Proceed to a hearing
  • Resolve factual disputes
  • Issue an initial decision

Q: What is a hearing?

A: A hearing resembles a courtroom trial in which witnesses testify under oath and are cross-examined. There is no jury. The ALJ may hold a hearing when the parties have not settled the dispute on their own or with the help of Commission mediators and the ALJ cannot issue a decision based solely on the written record.

Contact Information

Phone: 202-523-5750

Fax: 202-566-0042

E-mail: judges@fmc.gov


Chief Administrative Law Judge

Clay G. Guthridge

Administrative Law Judge

Erin M. Wirth