Notice & Comment

My Final ARLN Chair’s Comment: ABA AdLaw Section 2020-21 Year-In-Review

It has been a privilege to chair the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. When I was elected as Vice Chair three years ago (which by operation of the bylaws meant I’d serve as Chair in 2020-21), I never imagined I’d be navigating our Section through a global pandemic with all of our programming and activities conducted virtually. And yet the Section adapted, persevered, and indeed thrived.

On the programming front, we had some 30 panels, more than 100 speakers, and more than 1,000 virtual attendees at our three signature conferences: the ABA Administrative Law Conference in November, and the Administrative Law Spring Institute and Homeland Security Law Institute in May. Our committees were hard at work as well, hosting nearly two dozen webinars throughout the year with several thousand attendees combined. To help these programs reach an even broader audience, we launched the Section’s official YouTube channel in January, where recordings of many of these webinars have been made available to the public free of charge.

On the publications front, we released the eighth edition of the False Claims Act treatise in April. The first edition of Leading Supreme Court Cases in Administrative Law will arrive before year’s end. Within the next year or so we will publish new editions of four other treatises—on interstate compacts, federal agency adjudication, homeland security, and lobbying—as well as a new edition of the Section’s Blackletter Statement of Federal Administrative Law.

Dan Walters has done a stellar job in his first year as Editor-in-Chief of Administrative & Regulatory Law News. This quarterly ARLN magazine has tackled cutting-edge issues in the field: Summer 2020 focused on racism in administration law; Fall 2020 explored regulation in the COVID-19 era; Winter 2021 recapped the major developments in administrative law from 2020; Spring 2021 explored regulatory issues related to the presidential transition; and the forthcoming issue (in which this Chair’s Column will appear) commemorates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Sara Talebian has similarly been a terrific Editor-in-Chief of the Administrative Law Review, which is edited by the students at the American University Washington College of Law and which serves the Section’s official law review. Over the last year, the law review has published four issues with more than two dozen articles and student notes, including a timely Winter 2021 symposium issue comparing national regulatory responses to COVID-19 across the world. The law review’s online companion (Accord) and podcast (A Hard Look) have also added so much value to the field.

At our Notice and Comment blog, which is managed by the student editors at the Yale Journal on Regulation, the Section has been particularly busy. Over the last year, we have published nearly 350 posts by dozens of regular and guest bloggers. The blog has become a must-read source for timely analysis on developments in administrative law and regulatory practice.

On the policy and outreach front, the Section continues to play an important role in improving administrative law and regulatory process. Last summer we cosponsored a resolution the ABA House of Delegates adopted that encouraged Congress to fix the constitutional structure of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Congress did not act, but the Supreme Court in United States v. Arthrex adopted our approach. This summer we have supported the National Conference of the Administrative Judiciary (NCALJ) in its resolution to encourage the Biden Administration to make it easier for federal government employees to participate in ABA leadership and programming. This is an issue the Section has been working on for years under the leadership of Jamie Conrad. We have also had to lead the opposition to another NCALJ resolution, which, if adopted, would have encouraged Congress to create a new federal “central panel” adjudicative agency where NCALJ argues many (if not all?) of the roughly 12,000 federal agency adjudicators should be relocated.

From an outreach perspective, the launch of the ABA Program for Prospective Administrative Law Scholars (PALS) is perhaps this year’s most impactful initiative. The PALS program aims to help diversify the administrative law contingent within the legal academy by positioning promising lawyers currently in government or administrative and regulatory law practice to be successful job candidates in the academic marketplace. The governing council of the Section approved the PALS program this summer, and Kevin Stack has volunteered to lead the committee that rolls out the program this fall. We anticipate hosting an evening of virtual PALS programming the day before the annual ABA Administrative Law Conference in November.

On the leadership front, I want to thank the four council members whose terms end with mine: Daniel Flores, Kristin Hickman, Nikesh Jindal, and Gillian Metzger. I also thank Richard Parker, who concludes his term as one of our Section Delegates to the ABA House of Delegates. Their contributions to the Section have been invaluable. I am particularly indebted to Last Retiring Chair Linda Jellum, whose support has been unwavering and whose sage advice has been critical to our successes this year.

I am excited to welcome new faces to our leadership team, including new council members Bridget Dooling, Michael McGinley, Rosario Palmieri, Eloise Pasachoff, and Carrie Ricci, as well as Assistant Budget Officer Ariadne Panagopoulou. The Section is in good hands with incoming Chair Andrew Emery, Chair Elect Jill Family, Vice Chair Adam White, and Section Delegate Anna Shavers. As always, the Section succeeds in large part because of our Section Director Anne Kiefer. This past year has been no exception.

I close my final Chair’s Comment on a more personal note. Although the Section has thrived during the pandemic, I know so many of us have faced daunting personal challenges. COVID-19 has introduced numerous trials for all of us—from working from home and helping our children learn from home to confronting severe health challenges to ourselves or our loved ones. Our law professor members have had to adjust their approaches to pedagogy and student mentoring and support in response to COVID-19. Our members who work on or around the Hill faced the awful events of January 6th and their aftermath. (For my reflections on January 6th, see my Winter 2021 ARLN Chair’s Comment here.) Our members at federal agencies have grappled with the pressures of a presidential transition, from midnight rulemaking to new regulatory priorities—all while regulating during a pandemic. And our members at state, local, and tribal governments have no doubt confronted similar demands.

As I have struggled through my own challenges on the personal and professional front, your perseverance has inspired me. I have drawn strength from my interactions and friendships in the Section. I have been intellectually engaged—one might say, helpfully distracted—by the Section’s fabulous programming and publications. I am tremendously proud of the breadth and depth of dedicated lawyers from government, private practice, and the academy who make up our Section, and of the work the Section does to improve the administrative state. My term as Chair is coming to a close, but I look forward to decades of continued involvement in the Section. And I’m particularly excited for when we can all meet in person again to geek out about administrative law and regulatory practice.

This post is reproduced with minor modification from my forthcoming and final Chair’s Comment for Administrative and Regulatory Law News (ARLN). ARLN is one of the great ABA AdLaw Section member benefits, so if you’re not a Section member, definitely join us!

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