The Merits of "Merits" Review: A Comparative Look at the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal
This article compares several systems of administrative adjudication. In the U.S., adjudication is typically performed by the same agency that makes and enforces the rules. However, in Australia, almost all administrative adjudication is performed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), a non-specialized adjudicating agency, and several other specialized tribunals that are independent of the enforcing agency. These tribunals (which evolved out of concerns about separation of powers) have achieved great legitimacy. In the U.K., recent legislation (the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act) merged numerous specialized tribunals into a single first-tier tribunal with much stronger guarantees of independence than previously existed. An upper tribunal hears appeals from the first tier and largely supplants judicial review. The article concludes by asking whether the U.S. could learn anything from the Australian and U.K. experience and suggests that a single tribunal to adjudicate federal benefits cases might be a significant improvement over the existing model.