The Catholic University of America


(Photo courtesy of Ron Thomas)

Professor Mullen Honored by the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings

Catholic University clinical law professor Faith Mullen received an award on Oct. 16 from the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) in recognition of her efforts to improve access to justice for self-represented parties. Chief Administrative Law Judge Mary Oates Walker presented Mullen with a plaque (top) on the occasion of the opening of new office space for the Administrative Court.

OAH was formed in 2004 as a way to remove the appeal function from many city agencies and create an independent administrative tribunal charged with adjudicating administrative litigation. 
The office handles a high volume of cases, but Mullen noted early on that a startling number of litigants were self-represented, lacking professional legal representation and sometimes suffering less-than-favorable outcomes as a consequence.
She conducted a careful and comprehensive two-year study of the system, and suggested a number of significant changes designed to ensure that people pursuing administrative actions against the city had at least a fighting chance before an administrative law judge.
Some of her proposals have already been implemented, and others are planned for the near future. Among other improvements, Mullen succeeded in persuading the OAH to allow Catholic University law students to play an important role in the process:
  • Working in groups of ten, law students assist administrative law judges with defaults and dismissals in public works cases. 

  • Several students who were enrolled in a mediation course assisted with the mediation alternative at OAH by developing forms, drafting rules on mediation, and preparing case files. 

  • Law students prepared initial drafts of over a dozen fact sheets on rental housing, shelter, and Department of Public Works [DPW] cases.  

  • Law students conducted research on a variety of legal issues for individual administrative law judges. 

  • Law students drafted findings of fact. 
Even quasi-clerical tasks, such as creating exhibit lists or preparing the record for the DC Court of Appeals, have given first-year students a welcome exposure to legal process, observed Mullen.    
“This ‘Law Clerk for a Day’ project, as it has come to be called, has been enormously popular with CUA law students and has provided some valuable assistance to the OAH,” she said.