Guiding Agencies to Improve Transparency and Efficiency

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Scholars analyze ACUS recommendations to improve efficiency, public access, and transparency in agency procedures.

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The Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) is a federal agency that develops recommendations to improve administrative and regulatory procedures. In developing its recommendations, ACUS draws on research by staff and subject matter experts to evaluate opportunities for improving the administrative processes of the federal government, then develops and approves recommendations based on those findings through processes that involve input from representatives from government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and academe. These recommendations help drive change in administrative procedures and governmental practices.

ACUS’s latest recommendations, adopted at its last plenary meeting in December 2018, emphasize public access to rulemaking materials, streamlining administrative procedures, and opportunities for improving administrative adjudication. The Regulatory Review invited ACUS staff along with leading scholars involved in developing the latest round of ACUS recommendations to discuss these recommendations and the important ways that they can help to improve administrative government.

We are delighted that this series of essays features the following contributors: Cary Coglianese, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School; Aaron L. Nielson, professor of law at Brigham Young University; Todd Rubin, attorney advisor at ACUS; Michael Sant’Ambrogio, professor at Michigan State University College of Law; Glen Staszewski, professor at Michigan State University College of Law; and Louis J. Virelli, professor at Stetson University College of Law.

As administrative agencies confront a continually changing world, ongoing assessments of agency procedures are critical to improving governmental performance. ACUS’s recommendations encourage agency officials to engage actively with the public in rulemaking efforts, improve efficiency by avoiding duplicative work, and prioritize transparency in administrative procedures. The Regulatory Review is pleased to present this series of essays on ACUS’s latest recommendations.


May 28, 2019 | Cary Coglianese, University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Todd Rubin, Administrative Conference of the United States

Federal agencies use as their principal vehicle for soliciting public comments on proposed regulations and storing relevant background information. Despite the advance that this online regulatory portal represents over the paper-based regulatory dockets that agencies previously used to store information about proposed rules, has yet to live up to its potential as a place where users can easily find supporting materials when they seek to submit comments. ACUS’s recommendation has put forward three suggestions to help reduce remaining deficiencies in

Accessing Agency Procedure

May 29, 2019 | Aaron L. Nielson, Brigham Young University

Administrative law can be tricky. Not only does it include cross-cutting statutory and doctrinal issues, but it also involves many specific agencies with their own individual rules and nuances. Individual agencies conduct thousands of adjudications a year, and each agency uses its own rules, at least in part. Last year, ACUS issued a recommendation about steps agencies can take to ensure that the procedural requirements governing adjudications are accessible, with a special focus on agency websites. In the Internet age, agencies can and should take steps to make key procedural materials more readily available to the public.

Hurdles in Building Public-Private Partnerships

May 30, 2019 | Todd Rubin, Administrative Conference of the United States

As federal agencies continue to face growing responsibilities in excess of available funding, the ability to enlist private-sector players to help carry out certain tasks is an increasingly attractive option. It is not surprising, then, that partnerships have generated an enormous amount of interest in the executive branch over the past decade. ACUS’s recommendation on public-private partnerships addresses both the legal and practical considerations that agencies face when developing these partnerships.

Recusal Rules for Administrative Adjudicators

May 31, 2019 | Louis J. Virelli, Stetson University College of Law

Recusal in the administrative context is just as important as in the judicial context, but it has been treated somewhat differently as a legal matter, especially when it comes to its ability to curb the appearance of—as opposed to actual—bias in agency adjudication. ACUS’s recommendation on recusal provides agencies with a helpful road map for reducing the appearance of bias in their adjudications—and thereby improving public confidence in the administrative process.

Public Engagement in Rulemaking

June 3, 2019 | Michael Sant’Ambrogio, Michigan State University College of Law, and Glen Staszewski, Michigan State University College of Law

In most cases, agency engagement with the public begins long before the publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking. Because such engagement tends to be unstructured and ad hoc, however, agencies should devote more attention to strategic planning and consider other ways to better institutionalize public engagement with rulemaking. Affirmative, carefully structured efforts could encourage greater participation by traditionally absent stakeholders and thereby enhance efforts to more fully democratize the regulatory process.