Georgia Administrative Law

What is Administrative Law?

Administrative law is a form of civil law in which a government agency seeks to punish an individual for breaking its laws or its rules. Because it is not criminal law, the remedies cannot involve jail time. An adverse decision will not appear on a criminal record. Nonetheless, the outcomes are punitive, and can have a catastrophic effect on your future.

They are also specific to the agency. So, if your child is accused of bringing a weapon to school, a school system will seek your child’s suspension from school. If you are a doctor and you are accused of an inappropriate relationship with a patient, the Georgia Medical Board will advocate for the suspension or revocation of your medical license. If you drive on the Peach Pass lanes without paying the tolls, the State Road and Tollway Authority will request a civil penalty. All of these are different examples of administrative law.

How Does Administrative Law Work?

Each government agency may set up its own rules, but all agencies must provide basic due process before it can impose any punishment. In the administrative law context, due process means notice and a hearing.

Notice

“Notice” means that the person accused of violating the agency’s rules must receive enough information about what he or she is alleged to have done wrong in order to prepare a defense. This generally means that the accused (or “respondent”) will receive a brief description of the allegations against him or her. Depending on the agency’s rules, the notice can also include a list of witnesses, and a list of exhibits the agency expects to rely upon.

Hearing

“Hearing” means a trial before an administrative law judge or a hearing officer. The most significant difference between what you see on TV and an administrative hearing is that there is no jury in an administrative hearing. Otherwise, the hearings have all the regular components of a trial: opening and closing statements, direct and cross-examinations of witnesses, introduction of evidence, objections, and the right of each party to an attorney. The hearings are generally recorded, although the recording might be nothing more than a tape recorder.

At the end of the hearing the administrative law judge or hearing officer will issue a written decision which can be appealed.

Examples of Administrative Law in Georgia

School Disciplinary Hearings

School disciplinary hearings are held within the school systems by trained school personnel. The school system must provide a notice of the charges and a list of witnesses to the student. The hearing must be held within ten days of an out-of-school suspension, unless a continuance is granted. A decision to suspend a student by the school board may be appealed to the State Board of Education, which publishes all of its decisions. You can review the State Board’s decisions online.

Since opening her own law practice in 2014, Ann has represented students at these hearings. If your child is accused of violating the school system’s Student Code of Conduct, please contact Ann to discuss your options.

Office of Bar Admissions

If you are a law school graduate applying for admission to the Georgia Bar, you must not only pass the Bar Examination but also have your character certified as fit. If your application reveals evidence of dishonesty or bad character, the Board to Determine Bar Fitness may issue you a tentative denial. You are entitled to a notice of the reasons for the denial and a hearing to contest the denial.

The hearing is conducted by a hearing officer, who issues a recommendation to the Board to Determine Bar Fitness. As an Assistant Attorney General from 2005-2012, Ann represented the Board to Determine Bar Fitness and conducted several of these hearings on their behalf. If the Board to Determine Bar Fitness has tentatively denied your application, contact Ann.

Professional Licenses and Civil Penalties: The Office of State Administrative Hearings

Most state agencies refer their administrative law cases to the Office of State Administrative Hearings, otherwise known as “OSAH.” OSAH is an independent agency staffed with administrative law judges (“ALJs”) and clerks. While the OSAH headquarters are in Atlanta, the ALJs travel around the state to conduct hearings. The state agencies are generally represented by the Office of the Attorney General at these hearings.

Notice

At OSAH, the Notice takes the form of a Notice of Hearing, which tells the respondent when and where the hearing will occur, and a Statement of Matters Asserted, which lays out the allegations against the respondent. The Notice of Hearing generally includes additional rules specific to that agency or that administrative law judge.

For example, some agencies require the respondent to provide an answer within thirty days of receiving the Notice of Hearing. Failure to provide the answer can lead to default, or automatic loss of the hearing. Additionally, some judges require the parties to exchange witnesses and exhibits ahead of the hearing, or schedule a pre-trial conference. For these reasons, it is very important to read the Notice of Hearing carefully.

Hearing

The Hearing is held before the ALJ as described above. The ALJ generally issues a written decision within about six weeks of the hearing. You can review decisions written before 2018 online.

Depending on the agency, that decision may either be a recommendation or the final decision. If it is a recommendation, then the agency gets to review it, accept it, reject it, or modify it. The agency then issues a final decision. If the ALJ’s decision is styled as a Final Decision, then the agency does not get to review it.

Once the respondent receives a final decision, the respondent can appeal it to a superior court. This is known as a Petition for Judicial Review.

So, while different agencies have different authority over different types of people or different types of violations, the procedure is the same. Because of Ann’s seven years as an Assistant Attorney General, she has extensive experience with administrative law and can handle any type of case before OSAH. If you have received correspondence from a state agency regarding an alleged violation, or if you have received a Notice of Hearing from OSAH, please contact Ann to discuss your options.

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