A Tribute to Chief Administrative Law Judge Lorraine Lee, by Julian Mann, III
Lorraine Lee is the Chief Administrative Law Judge for the State of Washington, a post she has held for almost twelve years. She is presently serving her third five-year term under appointment of Governor Jay Inslee. She became the Chief Judge after serving in many Washington State agency capacities, including chair of the board that regulates alcohol licensing and permitting, staff attorney for the Court of Appeals and Washington Lottery, policy advisor to the Governor, appellate defender, and Captain in the Army JAG.
Chief Judge Lee, like other central panel judges in this country, has numerous administrative responsibilities besides adjudications. She manages a $72.5 million-dollar budget and 248 employees. That number includes supervising 140 administrative law judges in four geographically divergent field offices.
Providing continuity and leadership during the COVID-19 crisis has presented unprecedented challenges, particularly for the Washington State unemployment hearings. After being overwhelmed with appeals from citizens, who through no fault of their own found themselves unemployed, Judge Lee had to absorb an unprecedented caseload while her agency employees teleworked from home. With a significant financial boost from the legislature, a paperless case processing system, the launch of an electronic portal for hearing participants, and other innovations, Chief Judge Lee has managed to implement a remarkably efficient case management system that is diminishing the backlog of unemployment appeals while continuing to efficiently serve citizens who are seeking due process of law.
Within the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings and nationally through the ABA, Judge Lee has developed a reputation as a relentless advocate for diversity and inclusion. In the midst of this pandemic chaos, she continues to shepherd the Washington Immigrant Network (WIN), a state network for state employees from diverse nationalities who have joined the state workforce. Judge Lee has long recognized the value of a diverse workforce and with the strong support of Governor Inslee, she leads WIN at a time that this group of citizens have been unfairly subject to sharp political criticism and rhetoric. She founded the organization and today continues to advance the importance of diversity throughout state government. Somehow, she balances her commitment to WIN with her responsibility to preside over a multimillion-dollar budget and a staff of more state employees than almost any other state central panel.
To her friends and colleagues, her remarkable leadership skills come as no surprise. But it is time for others to know what Chief Judge Lorraine Lee, a truly unselfish leader, has done to advance state administrative law and the advantages of a diverse workforce.
Julian Mann, III, is the Chief Administrative Law Judge of the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings. This post is part of the ABA Administrative Law Section Series Celebrating Public Service; all the posts in the series are collected here.