June 26, 2007
Cummings plans hearing on Coast Guard administrative law system
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D. Md.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation is to convene a hearing to explore allegations that the agency's administrative law system is biased and that its judges are pressured to rule in the Coast Guard's favor.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Rep. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, said he also plans to ask Commandant Thad W. Allen to consider immediate action to protect the rights of defendants whose cases are now before the Coast Guard's courts.
Cummings was responding to an article published in The Sun suggesting that the Coast Guard's system is stacked against mariners.
According to the newspaper, agency records show that out of more than 6,300 charges brought in the past eight years, mariners prevailed in just 14. When dismissals are included, records show that the Coast Guard wins or reaches a settlement in more than 97 percent of its cases.
The newspaper reports that former Coast Guard Administrative Law Judge Jeffie J. Massey, who left the agency in March, later gave a sworn statement in which she said she was told by Chief Judge Joseph N. Ingolia that she was not a judge but rather a tool to enable the Coast Guard to gain the rulings it wants.
"I was specifically told [by Ingolia] that I should always rule for the Coast Guard," she testified.
Cummings said he and Rep. James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, will decide in the next few days whether to convene a hearing before the Coast Guard subcommittee or the full House Transportation Committee, which Oberstar chairs.