Federal and state administrative agencies have the power to make a variety of very significant decisions that can affect your life or business. For example, an agency may revoke or refuse to issue you a particular license, or it might impose obligations on you such as paying hefty fines. People who disagree with those decisions and believe that the decisions interfere with their rights may request an administrative hearing. At the hearing, an administrative law judge or judicial hearing officer will review the case and make a ruling.
If the litigant is dissatisfied with the administrative law judge’s ruling, he or she may appeal the decision to a court (this is called “judicial review”). Before a litigant can do so, however, he or she typically must first exhaust all available administrative remedies. This means that if there is an internal agency appeal process, the litigant must go that route first.
While exceptions do exist to this “exhaustion” requirement in certain limited circumstances (i.e., If the exhaustion requirement is waived by the agency, excused by the court, or if the case involves a constitutional issue), then a litigant may not be required to exhaust the internal review process before appealing the ruling to a court. Having competent counsel throughout this process is essential to help successfully navigate this complicated terrain.
Generally speaking, in an internal administrative appeal, the correctness of the agency’s decision will be examined by another division within the same agency. If, after that, a litigant is still dissatisfied with the agency’s determination, that litigant can usually seek judicial review of the decision. However, when reviewing an administrative agency’s decisions, courts will not examine the correctness of the decision, but will only review the method by which the decision was arrived at.
Once an appeal to a court is taken, the burden of proof is on the appellant to establish that the agency’s decision was invalid because it was unreasonable, unlawful, arbitrary, or unsupported. The court will use evidence from the administrative record to determine if the administrative agency was acting within its authority, complying with statutes, and not acting arbitrarily. It will not consider new evidence, and it will not hear testimony from witnesses.
If the appellant demonstrates that the agency acted in violation or unlawfully, the reviewing court may reverse, modify, vacate, or remand the agency’s action. The court can also issue a mandate requiring the agency to issue a certificate, comply with a statute or regulation, or conduct further proceedings.
We represent clients in appeals originating from adverse decisions made by municipal, county, state and federal government agencies and administrative tribunals.
We represent clients in administrative appeals and in judicial appellate review of agency decisions.