The Prehistory of ACUS, Part 5: President Eisenhower Calls for a Conference on Administrative Procedure

This post is the fifth in a nine-part series about the historical antecedents of ACUS.

On March 24, 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson sent a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower. “I have the honor to transmit a suggestion,” he wrote—a suggestion that the President bring together agency, public, and judicial representatives to study and recommend improvements to administrative procedure.

A month later, on April 29, President Eisenhower issued a memorandum to “All Executive Departments and Administrative Agencies” convening a Conference on Administrative Procedure. Its purpose, he wrote, was to “exchange information, experience and suggestions and so to evolve by cooperative effort principles which may be applied and steps which may be taken severally by the departments and agencies toward the end that the administrative process may be improved to the benefit of all.”

Dwight Eisenhower (Library of Congress/New York Times).

The Conference’s 75 agency, judicial, and public representatives convened four times, in June and November 1953 and again in October and November 1954. Judge E. Barrett Prettyman, later Chief Judge of the DC Circuit, served as its Chair. Professor Ralph Fuchs, who a decade earlier served on the Committee on Administrative Procedure, participated as a public member.

It was, the ABA Journal called it, a “unique experiment in government.”

In its 1953 report and its final 1955 report, the Conference made recommendations on a variety of practical subjects: the exclusion of evidence, the preparation of administrative records, hearing examiner qualifications, prehearing conferences, opinion testimony.

But first among them was a call for a permanent Office of Administrative Procedure to study federal administrative procedure, encourage inter-agency cooperation, recommend improvements, and adopt “practicable, uniform rules.”

“We are convinced,” the report says, “that the establishment of an Office of Administrative Procedure to act as a nucleus for continuing effort to improve administrative procedures is the most important contribution which can be made to this branch of the law.”

President Eisenhower thanked the Conference for its work. He wrote, “The work of the Conference has shown that an exchange of experience and views between Federal administrators and between them and members of the practicing bar and the judiciary produces useful results. I am confident that means will be devised for continuing such cooperative effort.”

Next week: Part 6, The Second Hoover Commission Calls for an Office of Legal Services and Procedure.

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