Since December of 2011, the SSA has had a policy of not disclosing the identity of the particular ALJ assigned to conduct a hearing and decide the case. This policy is unfortunate. It is helpful to know who the judge is for a hearing, rather than preparing your case for an unknown ALJ.
For my practice, however, I really do not need to know who the ALJ is ahead of time. I know my local judges, and can adjust accordingly at the hearing.
Nevertheless, it became something of a challenge to prognosticate the assigned ALJ, given the information provided in the hearing notice. So I went to work on the problem.
I have developed an algorithm that predicts the particular ALJ assigned to a hearing from the information contained in the hearing notice. It has proven to be 94% accurate predicting the judges assigned in the Portland hearing office.
The variables are:
- the day of the week of the hearing,
- time of the hearing,
- the hearing room, and
- whether or not a vocational expert (VE) has been assigned.
- whether or not a medical expert (ME) has been assigned
All this information is set forth in the notice of hearing.
Since there are more judges than hearing rooms, each judge must hold hearings on certain weekdays, so that the limited space can be shared. The scheduling of hearings follows a pattern; certain judges hold their hearings on certain days of the week. By analyzing previous hearing notices, the pattern can be discerned.
Judges also almost always use the same hearing room or two. This is an important variable in the Portland hearing office, which has only four hearing rooms for its judges. For those who may not know, the judges do not change hearing rooms during the day. They are scheduled for 5 or 6 hearings in a day, and they stay in the same room for the duration.
Further, different judges choose to schedule their hearings with different starting times. Some schedule for 9, 10, and 11 AM. Others start hearings at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30. A judge's hearings are scheduled according to this preference virtually every time.
Lastly, certain judges will always have a VE for the hearing. One never does. Some may or may not.
An ME is a less helpful predictive factor. Neverthess, certain judges rarely schedule an ME for a hearing.
Each factor tends to correlate to a judge or a small subset of judges, and also eliminates one or more judges from consideration. By combining all five factors, the algorithm identifies the judge that fits the pattern. And it almost always correctly identifies the hearing ALJ.