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Guide to Administrative Hearings at OAH

This guide provides an overview of what to expect if you have a hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). What actually happens at your hearing may be different depending on the type of hearing and the unique circumstances of your case. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will give you instructions at the start of your hearing about how it will proceed. For general information about administrative hearings, read below.

You can also find more specific information about the following types of hearings by clicking on a link below, or by clicking on one of the "quick links" to the right:

Words highlighted below have been defined in our Glossary of Legal Terms. Just select the highlighted word and you will jump to its definition on the Glossary page. You can return to this page by hitting the back arrow on the Glossary page. When possible, we have also highlighted specific laws and regulations for you to review.

If you have further questions, contact the telephone number listed on your Notice of Hearing. You may also contact one of our offices listed on the OAH Offices Directory if you do not have a Notice of Hearing.

What is an administrative hearing?

An administrative hearing is a legal proceeding designed to review a state or local agency decision before an impartial judge. Each party to an administrative hearing has a right to present and question witnesses, and to submit or challenge documents regarding the decision. The result of the proceeding is a decision to affirm, modify, or set aside the original agency decision.

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) conducts administrative hearings for state agencies according to the Administrative Procedure Act, Chapter 34.05 RCW.

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How do I request a hearing?

Most hearings start out with a written request to the agency that made the original decision.

Some agencies have rules governing the form of a request for hearing. For the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the request may be made orally or in writing, either to DSHS or directly to OAH. Where the dispute is between a parent or adult student and a school district, the request should be directed to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

Remember to include a request for interpreter or appropriate accommodation in your request for a hearing.

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What happens after I request a hearing?

In most cases, after the request is received a hearing is scheduled and each party is served with a Notice identifying the time, date, and place for the hearing. An ALJ is also assigned to preside over the case. The hearing may be in person or by telephone.

In certain cases, a prehearing conference is conducted by telephone. The prehearing conference is normally used to determine procedural matters necessary for an efficient hearing.

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How do I prepare for my hearing?

Persons appearing before OAH may be represented by an attorney, or lay advocate.

Each party is responsible for presenting testimony and/or exhibits that will support his or her case. Hearing preparation includes obtaining copies of documents and notifying witnesses of the time and date of the hearing.

Sometimes it is necessary to issue a subpoena for the attendance of witnesses. Non-attorneys may request the presiding ALJ to issue subpoenas.

If there is a conflict with the date scheduled for hearing, a party may request a continuance (postponement). Continuances may be granted for good cause.

In some cases, parties will be directed to identify witnesses and exchange copies of proposed exhibits one week before the hearing. The ALJ may ask that the witness lists and copies of exhibits be submitted to him or her, as well.

Please note that firearms and other dangerous weapons are prohibited at hearings and in all OAH offices.

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What happens during my hearing?

A hearing starts with both parties registering their appearance. The length of the hearing depends on the issues and number of witnesses.

A record of the hearing will be made, either by a court reporter or with a tape recorder.

The ALJ will introduce the case and describe the procedure that will be followed. Each party will have an opportunity to: (1) present witnesses and to question witnesses presented by the other party, and (2) present documents and challenge those presented by the other party.

Finally, each party will have an opportunity to present argument that the law and the evidence supports his or her position.

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What happens after my hearing?

The ALJ will close the record at the end of the hearing and consider the evidence.

When proceedings are recorded by OAH, the ALJ's copies of those tapes are available free of charge. Please call the phone number on your Notice of Hearing or contact the OAH office that scheduled your hearing to request copies.

OAH decisions are in written form with copies mailed to each of the parties and/or their representatives. The decision will contain findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order affirming, reversing, remanding, or modifying the original agency action.

Depending on the agency, the decision may be final when entered by the ALJ. Some agencies can adopt the OAH decision as final and other agencies may require a petition to be filed seeking further review by the agency. The decision will identify the applicable rules for obtaining review.

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