Reports Of Coast Guard ALJ Appointment Raise Widespread Concern

The United States Coast Guard’s “Homeport” website reports that George J. Jordan has been appointed to the position of Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge. The report of this appointment has raised grave concerns among a number of participants and observers in the marine industry.

It will be recalled that, according to now retired Coast Guard ALJ Jeffie J. Massey, George Jordan was among those present at a meeting in New Orleans on February 24, 2005, and as a result of that Jordan ended up a named defendant in the federal law suit filed by James M. Elsik (Elsik v. Joseph N. Ingolia et al, USDC E. Dist. La, CA No 07-1536).  Central among the allegations in the Elsikcomplaint was one that Chief Administrative Law Judge Joseph N. Ingolia arranged for an ex parte meeting on February 24 for the purpose of discussing with Judge Massey some of her rulings in numerous cases, including the Elsik matter. Present at the ex parte meeting were, among others, several investigating officers from the Marine Safety Offices in Louisiana and Alabama who were prosecuting certain cases before Judge Massey, including the Elsik case;  Kenneth J. Wilson, senior attorney advisor to the ALJ Docketing Center and member of Judge Ingolia’s staff; Hanna Liddington, and attorney for the USCG’s appellate staff who drafted commandant appeal decisions; Megan H. Allison, attorney advisor to the ALJ Docketing Center; and George J. Jordan, who was at the time of the meeting USCG Judicial Administrator and also a member of Judge Ingolia’s staff. Neither Mr. Elsik, nor any other respondents whose cases were to be discussed, were present.   

If this meeting did in fact occur as alleged by Judge Massey, it would have represented express violations of several federal statutes and regulations including: (1) 5 USC 557 (d)(1) (prohibiting conversations relevant to the merits of a proceeding with a person or party on fact issues unless notice and opportunity to attend is given to all parties); 33 CFR 20.206 (a) (prohibiting the Coast Guard from subjecting an ALJ to supervision or direction by those conducting the investigation or representing the Coast Guard);   and 33 CFR 20.206 (b) (prohibiting Coast Guard officers, agents or employees from participating in, or advising a decision of the ALJ).   

The report of Jordan’s appointment comes while Jordan and the others implicated in the ongoing scandal, including Chief ALJ Ingolia himself, are still under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, for wrongdoing arising from Judge Massey’s allegations.  These circumstances caused one commentator to observe: “ Appointing Jordan as ALJ under these circumstances seems to undermine the USCG’s claim that they have adequately addressed the issues raised. The USCG seems to have a total lack of sensitivity in handling any issue affecting mariners that comes before them – an indication of arrogance.” According to the Coast Guard’s “Homeport” website, Jordan will be assigned to the Seattle area. We have been told by Assistant Counsel of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security that his office has completed the “field work” stage of its investigation, and that it is embarking on the “evaluation” part next. We have been told that there is at present no anticipated release date for the report, but that such a date should be known in about one month’s time. We will keep you advised of all details as we learn of them.