By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is amending the regulations governing the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) to reflect the creation of the position of Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ). Parties have until November 6, 2020 to submit written comments. This position should not be confused with the current Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (CAHO) though I’m sure it will be confusing.

The CAHO will supervise the CALJ. The CALJ will serve as an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the direct supervisor of the OCAHO ALJs and related ALJ support staff.

Why is DOJ creating the position of CALJ when currently OCAHO only has one ALJ, Carol A. Bell, and the CAHO, Jean King? In the regulations to amend OCAHO, it states:

OCAHO is expanding its reach nationwide to account for an expected increase in volume of new case filings, particularly under sections 274A and 274B of the INA. See, e.g., Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE Worksite Enforcement Investigations in FY18 Surge (Dec. 11, 2018) (indicating a threefold increase in investigations under section 274A in FY 2018); Department of Justice, Departments of Justice and State Partner to Protect U.S. Workers from Discrimination and Combat Fraud (Oct. 11, 2017) (outlining a “Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative” that includes cases brought under section 274B).

The expansion of OCAHO's ALJ corps nationwide necessitates a CALJ position to ensure coordination and appropriate management oversight of the corps. The CALJ also further buffers the CAHO's management and administrative functions for OCAHO from the supervisory responsibilities for the ALJs and ensure that the CAHO does not inadvertently create a conflict during the adjudication of a case that would later require the CAHO's recusal from conducting any administrative review of that adjudication.

If this regulation takes effect, it will be interesting to see how many new OCAHO ALJs will be appointed for the CALJ to supervise.

A second indication of an increased volume of OCAHO cases is the OCAHO Settlement Officer Program to mediate cases pending at OCAHO. See

Thus, it appears we should be looking for a large uptick in OCAHO litigation. Over the past few years, there has been very little OCAHO litigation. In the past two years, OCAHO has only issued about five substantive decisions on I-9 penalties and less than 10 decisions concerning discrimination, document abuse, or relation. In its heyday - 2013, there were 38 decisions. Time will tell if we return to the levels of 2013.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at