Subject: Prehearing Analysis and Case Workup
Social Security regulations 20 CFR §§ 404.940 and 416.1440 require an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to disqualify himself or herself if he or she is prejudiced or partial with respect to any party or has an interest in the matter pending for decision. The regulations adopt an actual bias standard and do not require an ALJ to recuse himself or herself for the mere appearance of impropriety. Such a requirement would run contrary to the current regulations and may lead to unnecessary claim transfer and delay and may hamper the defense of an ALJ against an actual bias claim.
This transmittal revises and updates section I-2-1-60 to distinguish guidance concerning an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) mandatory disqualification and withdrawal in a case from guidance pertaining to a discretionary withdrawal from a case. The revision provides that an Administrative Law Judge may, but is not required to, disqualify or recuse him or herself from adjudicating a case if he or she believes that his or her participation in the case would give the appearance of impropriety. The ALJ must have reasonable and proper grounds for withdrawing. The section contains examples of situations when an ALJ may withdraw from a case.
Date: December 14, 2004