The Prehistory of ACUS, Part 7: The Department of Justice Gets an Office of Administrative Procedure

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

On February 6, 1957, Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. issued Order 142-57 establishing the Office of the Administrative Procedure within the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Brownell himself had been a member of the second Hoover Commission.

“With a view to achieving improvements in administrative procedures within the Executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government,” the Attorney General directed the new Office to:

  • Carry on continuous studies of the adequacy of the procedures by which Federal departments and agencies determine the rights, duties, and privileges of persons;

  • Initiate cooperative effort among the departments and agencies and their respective bars to develop and adopt so far as practicable uniform rules of practice and procedure;

  • Collect and publish facts and statistics concerning the procedures of the departments and agencies;

  • Assist departments and agencies in the formulation and improvement of their administrative procedures.

Department of Justice (Library of Congress/Historic American Buildings Survey).

Nearly 50 agencies named representatives to liaise with the new Office, and the Office itself was in “frequent contact” with public stakeholders. “For all of these diverse groups and individuals,” its 1957 annual report states, “the Office seeks to act as a clearing house for procedural information. It does special study and research with respect to selected problems, and recommends and provides advice with respect to procedural matters, whenever such appears to be in order.”

The Office’s primary task was to compile statistics and review agencies’ legislative proposals. Its 1957, 1958, and 1959 annual reports provide a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the federal government in the late 1950s.

However, according to the account of former ACUS Chairman and current Senior Fellow Marshall Breger, the Office “lacked adequate resources and never had a full-time professional staff of more than three.” It ultimately lasted only three years.

Next week: Part 8, President Kennedy Calls for an Administrative Conference of the United States.

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