USDA Adjudications by Administrative Law Judges

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USDA frequently issues press releases regarding produce companies that have violated PACA regulations.  These companies are entitled to a USDA hearing.  And so are the persons who are “responsibly connected” with a company.  The hearings are held before a USDA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

But these hearings have hit a snag over the last few months because there is a problem with whether the ALJs have been properly appointed as “officers.”  As a result, there have been no hearings.  The problem exists for other government agencies as well, e.g. the SEC.

The issue was argued before the Supreme Court on April 23, and a ruling by the Supreme Court is expected in June.


The Supreme Court issued a ruling on June 21, 2018, stating that the appropriate remedy for an appointment’s violation is a new hearing before a properly appointed official.  In the case of USDA hearings, this means that any violations of the appointments clause requires that a new hearing be held before a different ALJ who has been properly appointed.

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