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Ruling could compromise U.S. administrative judges' independence from political influence

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Administrative judgesAdministrative judges, the adjudicators of regulatory law at U.S. government agencies, may face a threat to their independence from political influence under a recent court ruling.

A federal appeals court ruled in July that the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of administrative judges who set the rate broadcasters pay for copyright licenses, was unconstitutional because of the way its panelists are appointed and the job protections they are given.

The ruling could impact the work of thousands of administrative judges dissecting the details of regulations at U.S. government agencies from the Federal Communications Commission to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Such judges' hearings replace traditional trials when regulations are at issue. They hear more cases than the entire judicial branch combined, said Arti Rai, a professor at Duke University School of Law.

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