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Administrative Procedures in the Department of the Interior: The Role of the Office of Hearings and Appeals

James M. Day, Proceedings of 17th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1971)

The Office of Hearings and Appeals was created by the Secretary of the Interior under authority of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1950.1 The reorganization of the quasi-judicial framework of the Department was a bold and imaginative step, but at the same time, it was necessary and long overdue. To understand the significance of this paradox, one must first examine the former administrative practices and policies of the Department.2

The most cogent of any criticisms of the Department's [2] administrative practices was that the former appellate system was institutionally oriented and violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Administrative Procedure Act. It was pointed out that the Bureau of Land Management investigated, prosecuted, rendered the initial decision and made the intermediate appellate determination. Likewise, the Solicitor performed investigative and prosecuting functions and was delegated the authority to render the final administrative decision on behalf of the Secretary. This was an obvious duplication of effort and resulted in unnecessary delays and increased cost for litigants and the government. This shortcoming of procedural fairness has been discussed by authorities both at the Institute on previous occasions3 and elsewhere4 and was the subject of an important recommendation of the Public Land Law Review Commission.5 It was with this background t