Friday, September 18, 2009

The Administrative Conference of the United States Returns

How many of you have heard of the Administrative Conference of the United States (“ACUS”)? My guess is that unless you are administrative law cognoscenti you have never heard of ACUS. Yet in some ways ACUS has touched all ADR practitioners and those who represent parties in disputes with the government; ACUS was responsible for the intellectual and legal basis for much of ADR in, by, and around the federal government.

ACUS was a small government administrative law think tank that addressed government processes; it lost its funding during the mid-1990s government cost cutting but has been reauthorized by Congress and funded by $1.5 million for FY 2009.

Prior to its demise, ACUS organized and facilitated administrative law experts’ studies of many aspects of the problems affecting government decision-making, especially administrative rule-making and settlement of enforcement matters, and it recommended ways to improve regulatory efficiency.

It was composed of about 100 members from academia, government and private law practice serving on a volunteer basis and had a permanent staff of about 20 at the time it closed. Despite its small staff and the voluntary nature of its members, ACUS produced numerous studies, reports and recommendations that suggested how to improve government administrative processes.

In the early 1980s ACUS recognized that ADR techniques could be used to resolve disputes and develop federal government regulations. ACUS developed the reports and intellectual underpinning that let to much greater use of ADR by the federal government (e.g., Administrative Conference of the U. S., Sourcebook: Federal Agency Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution by Marguerite S. Millhauser and Charles Pou, Jr., (Office of the Chairman, 1987) and Negotiated Rulemaking Sourcebook by David M. Pritzker and Deborah S. Dalton (Office of the Chairman, 1995)).

ACUS set the framework for the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act (ADRA, the reauthorized version of which can be found at 5 U.S.C.A. § 571) and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act (now codified at 5 U.S.C. §§ 561-570), and it brought ADR techniques out of the federal government’s closet and into common usage.

Published reports suggest that the White House may announce a nominee to chair a newly reconstituted Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) before the current fiscal year ends on September 30. A new ACUS chairman would have the authority to hire staff and set up the agency.

According to these reports, Paul R. Verkuil, a prominent administrative law professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School in New York appears to be the leading choice to be nominated for ACUS chairman. Verkuil, a former president of the College of William and Mary, was also dean of Cardozo and Tulane Law Schools.

ACUS will improve the discourse about administrative practice and the use of ADR techniques by and around the government and on how to increase the public’s knowledge and involvement in the federal government.

This is great news.

Keywords: mediation, alternative dispute resolution, adr, alternative dispute resolution, acus, administrative conference of the united states, administrative conference


  1. Do you have any updated information on ACUS? How can we keep track of what their progress?

  2. Really good question. I will let you know if there is anything new out there on this.

    Dan Dozier

  3. Anything run by mostly lawyers and former lawyers I wouldn't put much faith in!!!