In each case before the Postal Regulatory Commission, the Commission selects an individual from its staff to represent and advocate for the interests of the general public in that case. This appointment is required by statute (39 U.S.C. § 505) to ensure that the public interest is not overlooked in proceedings. Many agencies take into consideration the public interest, but those interests are not typically articulated and advocated separately and independently. At the Commission, in each case, one or more individuals is selected to serve as the Public Representative for that docket. An ethical wall prevents participation of the Public Representative in the decisional process for that proceeding, which permits the Public Representative to speak with a wide variety of interested persons and stakeholders.
The Public Representative is usually an attorney or a technical analyst. Often a Public Representative receives technical or legal assistance from another individual who also is not part of the agency’s decisional process. The Public Representative is expected to file comments in his or her assigned docket. On occasion, the Public Representative has sponsored expert witness testimony. Sometimes, a Public Representative is required to participate in legal motion practice, and where necessary, legal assistance may be provided. Recently, the Commission has added an Attorney-Administrator position to develop a comprehensive description of the Public Representative program, continue to improve the public representation process, and assist in training, mentoring and skills development. The Attorney Administrator has produced a Handbook describing the standards, procedures and guidelines of the program, and has established a number of procedures to help attain consistent, high quality public representation.
On occasion Public Representatives have required the services of an outside expert or consultant, and arrangements for such services are made with the assistance of the Attorney-Administrator and the concurrence of the Chairman and Secretary of the agency. The contracting for such services is handled through the agency. This ensures that proper contracting procedures are followed but still preserves the ethical wall.