Administrative Law on and off-road – a Welcome from Chair Melissa Lassiter

By Melissa Owens Lassiter

My name is Melissa Owens Lassiter, and I am honored to serve as the Chair of our Administrative Law Section for the 2020-2021 year. It is my distinct pleasure to serve alongside Nahale Kalfas as Vice-Chair, Bain Jones as Secretary, and Fred Moreno as Treasurer.

The past few months have been quite dynamic and unpredictable given the COVID-19 pandemic. While some have demonstrated a desire for decreased governmental regulation, others have striven for more streamlined, yet less formal proceedings for resolving disputes between the citizenry and governmental entities. We appear to be at a crossroads of the future of the administrative process.

In the current environment, the courts have frequently afforded governmental agencies large latitude when acting “in the public interest.” Public policy has been at the forefront of recent court analysis in many cases. A movement toward greater deference to the state seems inevitable if the trend toward less formal and detailed proceedings continues.

In The History and Dangers of Administrative Law, Phillip Hamburger noted that administrative law is “actually very old” and

[I]s essentially a re-emergence of the absolute power practiced by pre-modern kings. Rather than a modern necessity, it is a latter-day version of a recurring threat – a threat inherent in human nature and in the temptations of power.

(“The History and Dangers of Administrative Law,” Philip Hamburger, Columbia Law School, 2014. Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.) Hamburger opined:

Administrative acts by executive agencies are a way of driving off-road, exercising power through other pathways. For those in the driver’s seat, this can be quite exhilarating. For the rest of us, it’s a little unnerving.

With today’s ever-rising concerns for health, privacy, safety and due process, our Section is here to assist those who are in the driver’s seat and on the roads. We are the part of the justice system that must balance the various factors in play in administrative law into a fair yet workable system for the future.

On that note, please join us on Friday, November 20, 2020, for “Law In The Time of Corona*, People, Places, Protests, and Police,” a joint CLE with the Government and Public Sector Section, to discuss:

  • protests on the streets and in public meetings,
  • privacy laws dealing with the health of individuals and the government;
  • the authority of State and local government officials during a pandemic, and the enforcement and exercise of such authority;
  • public access to government property during a pandemic; and
  • the public’s right to access law enforcement records, body camera footage and police officer employment records.

We hope to see you there.

*P.S. Bring your own Corona.

Melissa Owens Lassiter has served as an Administrative Law Judge with the NC Office of Administrative Hearings since March 1998. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987 and Campbell University School of Law in 1990. Melissa is an avid UNC fan and lives in Chatham County with her family, dog Brisco, and cat Butty.