Recently at FELTG, we stumbled across a copy of some MSPB case numbers that we found to be interesting (some call it dumpster-diving; others call it hard journalistic research). From what we could figure out, MSPB HQ has finally turned the corner on processing the multitudinous appeals from the Stupid Sequestration we all endured a couple of years ago. The Office of Appeals Counsel (if you have been to our famous MSPB Law Week seminar, you know who and how important that office is) has reduced its case backlog to just over 150 cases. That’s a remarkable achievement, given the workload increase that office has endured because of the Board’s decision to begin issuing non-precedential decisions several years ago. 150 pending cases is about the level of backload in OAC when I was MSPB’s Chief Counsel in the ’90s, a period of relatively expedient and consistent case processing (if I do say so myself).
The situation with the judges in the regional offices, however, is much darker. For nearly its entire existence, each Board Chairman has imposed a goal of issuing decisions in all initial appeals (the judge’s decision) within 120 days. And more than one MSPB administrative judge has been quietly moved into other employment over the years when he could not keep up with the pace of 120-day adjudication. In a perfect world, the regions would have a backlog of zero cases more than 120 days old. Practically speaking, a few cases will be so complex as to require more time, so you might expect a backlog of maybe 10-12 over-age cases.
As of the end the previous year, according to the reports we recently received, the Board’s regional offices had a 120-day-old backload of over 900 cases.
When you consider that number, think of each of the individual appellants who have a significant part of their lives on hold, awaiting a regional decision in their case. Think of the growing liability exposure each agency involved in the appeal has, if the case involves potential backpay. In my day, in a situation like this, we would have moved troops from HQ to the field to help with the backlog, as soon as we were able to work out details with the Board’s professional association and office directors. I wonder if the current leadership of the Board is taking action to help in the regions.