NOAA and Coast Guard amend memorandum of agreement clarifying use of Administrative Law Judges for pending NOAA cases
On September 8, 2011, NOAA announced that it will refer new law enforcement cases to administrative law judges (ALJs) from the Environmental Protection Agency. As noted in that announcement, cases docketed with the Coast Guard ALJs prior to September 8, 2011, will remain with the Coast Guard ALJs.
On September 28, 2011, NOAA and the Coast Guard ALJs amended their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to make clear that the Coast Guard ALJs would continue to hear cases docketed prior to September 8, 2011, providing Coast Guard ALJs with the authority to adjudicate pending cases. Retaining Coast Guard ALJs to handle pending cases provides a mechanism for respondents to resolve their cases without significant costs or delays.
In the amendment to the MOA signed by both NOAA and the Coast Guard ALJs, NOAA acknowledges that the Coast Guard ALJ program has handled more than 1,000 NOAA enforcement cases and proceedings over the course of this MOA, and notes that during this time the Coast Guard ALJs "ensured full due process, independent, and impartial application of law."
When asked about the transfer of ALJ services to the EPA, Coast Guard Chief Administrative Law Judge Joseph Ingolia emphasized that, "The Coast Guard understands NOAA's desire to overhaul its fisheries enforcement program, including the mechanisms for hearing fisheries cases. With the confidence of Commerce leadership, we will continue to preside over existing cases for NOAA and for other agencies within the Department of Commerce."
NOAA's transfer to new ALJs is part of its efforts to reform every aspect of its enforcement program. In response to reviews of the program by the Inspector General that were requested by NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the agency has implemented a number of sweeping changes since January 21, 2010, including:
- New policies and procedures such as a new and uniform nationwide penalty policy for the Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation;
- New leadership in the Office of Law Enforcement;
- Greater oversight of enforcement lawyers and agents; and
- Greater oversight of funds spent on the enforcement program.
To get more information on the reforms to NOAA's enforcement program, visit NOAA's timeline of enforcement program improvements.
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Posted: November 14, 2011