The Administrative Conference may be best known for one of its past chairmen: Antonin Scalia, who went on to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court. The Conference was a large body -- up to 101 members, from academia, agencies and the private sector -- that thought deeply and researched extensively on regulatory and administrative issues. It came up with arcane proposals to solve problems most people never knew existed, but those who loved it said it made useful nips and tucks to the administrative state.
We're using the past tense because Congress cut its funding in 1995, and like few other government agencies, it actually ceased operations. But ever since then, there's been an effort to revive it on the theory that the conference more than made up for its small budget -- under $2 million a year -- by increasing the efficiency and fairness of government agencies.
The effort to bring back the conference has finally succeeded, and it even has a chairman: former law dean Paul Verkuil, also known for being a Supreme Court special master in the dispute between New Jersey and New York over ownership of Ellis Island. President Barack Obama appointed Verkuil and the Senate confirmed him earlier this year. It will take some time to build up the membership and infrastructure of the conference; it does not yet have a web site.
The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today on the reconstituted Administrative Conference, and among its witnesses will be Scalia and colleague Justice Stephen Breyer, who was a member and who, like Scalia, thought the conference deserved to live another day. Also testifying will be Verkuil, Sally Katzen of the Podesta Group, Curtis Copeland of the Congressional Research Service, and American University Washington College of Law professor Jeffrey Lubbers. Katzen was a top OMB official in the Clinton Administration.
Lubbers, onetime research director for the conference and now a consultant to the revived organization, said the hearing will reintroduce the conference to the committee, which was instrumental in bringing it back to life. The conference's plans and priorities for new administrative reforms will be discussed. "There are a lot of files in my basement I've been looking at," Lubbers said.