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Is a social security ALJ administrative law judge considered a federal judge?

Atlanta, GA |

Last year i lost my social security case. The judge was clearly biased against me, asking questions that accused me of things because I have a criminal record (yes, I have mental illness, and ONE conviction for a misdemeanor and three dropped cases by the prosecutors).
My social security attorney told me that filing a complaint against the ALJ could be considered a crime. I looked up and found 18 USC 1521, which talks about retaliating against a federal judge.
Would it be legal for me to file a complaint against the ALJ? I WILL DO DO IT if the ALJ is considered a federal judge, because I read 18 USC 1521 and that looks very seriously scary.

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Attorney answers 4


The usual definition of "federal judge" in our legal system is someone appointed by the President under Article III of the Constitution. Administrative Law Judges are appointed within the agency they serve. The statute you have found does not apply to a complaint about an ALJ. It refers to liens recorded in the public records against the real property interests of judges and public officials. This has been seen frequently here in the West as an intimidation tactic by political extremists.

To complain about a Social Security Administrative Law Judge, address your complaint to:

The Chief Administrative Law Judge
Office of Disability Adjudication and Review
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1608
Falls Church, VA 22041-3255

Be aware, however, that an ALJ has broad discretion in questioning a disability claimant, and is required to assess credibility, an issue to which prior criminal convictions is relevant. Unless there is solid proof that you suffered discrimination on the grounds of such prohibited/protected factors as age, gender, etc. your complaint will not be successful. If you simply think the ALJ's decision is wrong, your remedy is an appeal into the Appeals Council.

Best wishes for an outcome you can understand, and please remember to designate a best answer.

This answer is offered as a public service for general information only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.



ALJ used intimidation by asking questions such as what my facebook is, when did I last use it, have i ever been arrested, etc. And the ALJ used intimidation by asking questions totally unrelated to my disability; it was a witch hunt into my PRIVATE life that was coercion NOT to question anything he asked. Nor to refuse to respond to his questions. The Appeals Council will take my complaint and put it straight into the shredder-- why should I complain to a government that discriminates against someone based on their race and religion?

Paula Brown Sinclair

Paula Brown Sinclair


Nothing you have said changes my answer. There is much about one's private life that is relevant to a disability determination. Nothing you have mentioned suggest discrimination on the grounds of race or religion, but it does sound like the ALJ questioned your credibility. This is fair game, especially in cases where symptoms are very subjective, such as pain.



There is nothing subjective here! I had a job and had mental illness my whole life; it became so bad i could not hold down a job. I lost my car, my house, and my property. Then homeless for over 6 years and even denied Medicaid in Kentucky EVEN THOUGH I WAS NOT EMPLOYED. Can't explain that.


Given the inherent discretion of a SS ALJ, it is extremely hard to prove discrimination because the key role of an ALJ is to assess your credibility.

Good luck.

DISCLAIMER: David J. McCormick is licensed to practice law in the State of Wisconsin and this answer is being provided for informational purposes only because the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship.


It would not be a crime to file a complaint against a judge. A valid complaint is not considered retaliation. It also probably would not do you any good and the time you spent trying to prove your complaint would probably be better spent applying again.

Hire a SS lawyer to handle your case from start to finish. Some will not take the case until it is in the appeal stage because that is when they can get paid. Find one that will. It will greatly increase your chance of success.

Don't be afraid to interview more than one attorney before deciding,

Finding a lawyer is not that hard. You can search for a Social Security attorney on this site. Just click on the Find A Lawyer tab, put Social Security as your search term and enter the name of your city.

Look through the attorneys to make your choice. You may want to see what questions they answered (at the bottom of each profile) so that you can get a feel for one you would feel most comfortable in dealing with. Attorneys are people and come in all styles. The way they answer questions can give you a peek into the way they will likely deal with you.


ALJ's are not Article III federal Judges.

Although they exercise SOME of the same powers as judges, they are members of the executive branch.

FYI, they used to be called 'Hearing Officers'.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. FOR EDUCATION AND INFORMATION ONLY. Mr. Rafter is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the US Federal Courts in Virginia. There is no implied or actual attorney-client relationship arising from this education exchange. You should speak with an attorney licensed in your state, to whom you have provided all the facts before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. Mr. Rafter is under no obligation to answer subsequent emails or phone calls related to this matter.

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