Review of administrative law judge decisions by the political appointees of the NLRB, 1991-2006

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The ability of unelected bureaucrats to shape public policy in a democracy has prompted scholars to try to understand the factors that affect agency decision making. The conclusion from this research has been that political ideology plays a substantial role in the policy decisions and outcomes of political appointees at independent agencies. However, researchers have largely ignored the role and influence of lower level decision making. In order to study how lower level decisions affect public policy, I examine how administrative law judge (ALJ) decisions impact subsequent decisions by the political appointees of the National Labor Relations Board. I examine the Board decisions for the period between 1991 and 2007 as a function of the ALJ decision, the attitudes of the Board members, exception filing, economic factors, external political influence, and case characteristics. Results demonstrate that the decision of the ALJ is the most important determining factor in predicting Board outcomes in both routine and difficult cases. These results alter previous perceptions that ideology was the most important determining factor of independent agency decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-580
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing

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