New DOAH chief stamps Federalist brand on judge search

tumblr_p01k8iW2pT1tt2fafo1_1280John MacIver has been on the job for just a week, but the new chief judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings is already putting a Federalist Society spin on the joint.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and two Republican members of the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody and CFO Jimmy Patronis — last week appointed MacIver to take over as head of DOAH, the go-to place for citizens and businesses to redress grievances against state agencies.

MacIver was admitted to The Florida Bar six years ago, and he’s the head of the local chapter of the Federalist Society, the conservative group that supports a “textualist” or “originalist” interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

“The best place where improvement can be made is in the culture of judicial philosophy at DOAH,” MacIver told the Cabinet last week, responding to a question posed by Moody.

MacIver pointed out that, since DeSantis, a Harvard Law School graduate, has taken office, the governor has appointed judges who “respect the separation of powers, respect the rule of law, follow the text of the law based on its common understanding.”

Florida businesses, citizens and legislators, who craft laws, need to have “some predictability in the law” and shouldn’t be “subject to the whim” of judges who have their own policy preferences, MacIver said.

MacIver’s Federalist approach — and his lack of experience — drew some backlash from Democrats, including Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried, who voted against him, and several legislators.

MacIver, whose post requires Senate confirmation, meanwhile appears to have launched the DOAH makeover, as noted in a call-out to the Bar’s Administrative Law Section yesterday.

In an email to Brian Newman, the section’s chairman, MacIver wrote that he’s seeking “resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions,” and asked Newman to spread the word.

Minimum qualifications for ALJs is five-year membership in the Bar, MacIver noted.

“Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law,” he wrote (we added the emphasis).

Here’s the full text of his message to Newman:

Greetings Mr. Chair:

Please share with your membership my request for resumes for several vacant Administrative Law Judge positions. The official application is available through people first, but I am also accepting resumes and cover letters at Recruiting@Doah.state.fl.us. The minimum qualification to serve as an Administrative Law Judge is 5-years membership in the Florida Bar. Experience in administrative law and trial practice is highly valued. Additionally, and crucially, I will be seeking applicants who can show a commitment to faithfully upholding the rule of law. I expect the positions to be very competitive, but I’m asking for your help to discourage your members from self-screening their own applications. One of your members might have the unique combination of attributes that would make a perfect Administrative Law Judge—including the humility to think that they don’t—please encourage them to apply.

Respectfully yours,

John MacIver

Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge

Right now, it appears that there is one vacant ALJ position, but several other ALJs are nearing retirement age.