This is a monitored discussion.
Give an example of one interrogatory, request for production and request for admission that you would propose if you were the plaintiff involved in an administrative agency action that resulted in your loss of employment with the City of Spanish Moss, Florida, for poor performance. Please give an explanation of why you chose these discovery questions.
Assignment: Read Chapters 8 and 9.
Chapter 8: Formal Adjudication.
In the context of an administrative agency, what is meant by Formal Adjudication? Formal adjudication in the administrative law sense means a trial. The administrative trial can consist of anything from license revocation to being terminated from government employment.
As you learned in the previous chapters, due process protections afford an individual certain rights before an agency can take action. Once taking action, due process rights continue in the adjudication setting. Like a criminal prosecution, all administrative proceedings involving formal adjudication must comport with the Notice requirement. Be careful not to confuse an administrative agency’s ability to take action involving serious matters without complying with the notice requirement. An example of an administrative action without notice would be to suspend a restaurant’s license for serious health concerns. However, absent some exigent circumstance, administrative agencies must comport with the notice requirement before taking action.
Once notice is served and the nature of the action defined, the agency usually participates in discovery. Discovery can take the form of depositions, interrogatories, request for production and request for admissions. Once discovery is complete, the case is adjudicated by way of a hearing. Not all hearings are trial-type in nature. The action that the agency is taking dictates what type of “hearing” the affected party will receive. The more serious the action, the more likely a trial-type hearing will be involved.
The rules of evidence that are used in both criminal and civil cases are generally used in administrative law hearings with the exception of the hearsay rule. Hearsay rules are in effect, but they are relaxed and in some cases allowed to explain other testimony or evidence presented.
Also, the hearing that is afforded an affected party will not be before a jury. A hearing officer or administrative law judge will preside. The standard of proof that must be shown by the agency to sustain the charge is usually preponderance of evidence. In some cases, the standard of clear and convincing is used, however, this is the exception and not the rule.
Once the hearing is complete, the ruling will be either recommended or final. The order will become final only if the agency itself is presiding over the hearing. Should the agency use a third-party to preside over the hearing, the order will only be a recommended one. Should the agency disagree with the recommended order, the agency can substitute their own findings for that of the recommended order, but only if the recommended order was not based upon competent and substantial evidence that was presented at the hearing.
Should the affected party be displeased with the final order, the only redress that party has is in the district or circuit court of the respective jurisdiction. However, courts will not overturn an agency decision unless the agency decision was based upon evidence that was not competent and substantial.
Chapter 9: Accountability Through Reviewability.
As learned in Chapter 8, once an agency issues a final order, the affected party has a right to appeal to the courts for redress.
Most agency decisions are reviewable by the courts. However, the courts will only hear a matter if the case has been fully adjudicated by the agency. Meaning that unless the administrative agency has issued a final order, the courts will not entertain an appeal. This is because courts do not hear testimony, only the record that was perfected at the administrative hearing. Unless the courts have the record, they can not review the matter and issue a decision.
For a party to be eligible to seek redress with the courts, a party must have standing. Standing in the legal doctrine that allows for legal redress only if the person was an affected party or has an interest in the outcome. For example, a person can’t contest an administrative agency’s decision to revoke a hunting license of a friend. To determine if a party has standing, the party, otherwise known as a plaintiff or petitioner, must suffer some injury. Second, the plaintiff must be “within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated.” Although the book indicates that the third requirement must show that the injury being redressed will likely be resolved favorably, this element is hardly ever applied by the courts.
Keep in mind that all available administrative remedies must be exhausted before the plaintiff can seek legal redress. Should the party have additional administrative remedies that they can avail themselves to, the case will be dismissed and remanded back to the agency until such time a final order is issued.
Courts also apply legal principles of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel. Res judicata in its simplest form means “a matter adjudged.” Meaning that once a case has been adjudicated by a court, the case can never be tried again. This prevents relitigation of issues that have been decided by a court. Res judicata is typically unique to a plaintiff, making it impossible for a plaintiff to relitigate an case. However, Collateral Estoppel is unique to a legal issue. Meaning that once a court decides a legal issue, the decision is applied to all cases thereafter. An example would be if the Supreme Court ruled that taxes must be paid for every donut you eat on Wednesday, a person can’t relitigate that issue in subsequent cases.
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