Last Update: 9/28/05 (Transmittal I-2-67)
20 CFR §§ 404.940 and 416.1440.
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) must disqualify or recuse himself or herself from adjudicating a case if the ALJ is prejudiced or partial with respect to the claimant or has any interest in the matter pending for decision.
The ALJ may disqualify himself or herself from adjudicating a case if the ALJ believes his or her participation in the case would give an appearance of impropriety. However, disqualification is not a matter of personal preference or reluctance to handle a particular case. The ALJ must have reasonable and proper grounds for such action. For example, the ALJ may withdraw from the case if:
The ALJ shares an acquaintance with, but does not know, the claimant; or
The ALJ has particular knowledge about the claimant from an extrajudicial source.
If an ALJ disqualifies himself or herself from a case on his or her own initiative, and the notice of hearing has not been sent to the claimant, no notice of disqualification to the claimant is necessary.
If an ALJ disqualifies himself or herself either as a result of an objection received from a claimant, or on his or her own initiative when the notice of hearing has already been sent to the claimant, the ALJ must:
send notice of the disqualification to the claimant; and
inform the claimant that the date set for the hearing has been cancelled (if cancellation is necessary) and that he or she will receive an amended notice of hearing when another ALJ is assigned to conduct the hearing.
If an ALJ disqualifies himself or herself at the hearing, the ALJ's oral statement on the record is sufficient notice to the claimant.
If a claimant objects to an ALJ conducting the hearing in his or her case, but the ALJ decides before the hearing that the claimant's reasons for objecting do not warrant disqualification, the ALJ must:
advise the claimant in writing, setting forth the reasons for the decision; and,
note his or her refusal to disqualify himself or herself in the opening statement at the hearing as part of the procedural history of the case.
If an ALJ refuses at the hearing to disqualify himself or herself, the ALJ's explanation in the transcript will be sufficient notice to the claimant.
When an ALJ is assigned to conduct a hearing in a case in which another ALJ has disqualified himself or herself, and the claimant is aware of the disqualification of the first ALJ, the current ALJ should mention the matter as part of the procedural history in his or her opening statement at the hearing. However, the ALJ need not discuss the reasons for the disqualification.
If an ALJ does not withdraw, the claimant may, after the hearing, present objections to the Appeals Council (AC) as to why the hearing decision should be revised or a new hearing held before another ALJ. The AC is to address any issues of bias or unfair treatment raised with the claimant's request for review and will notify both the claimant and the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) of its findings. The CALJ will order any remedial action, if necessary.