Which Way is the Scale Tipped Now? The Shifting Balance of Power Between the Authority of Administrative Agencies and the State Office of Administrative Hearings Regarding Rulings in Contested Cases
Harlan, Nancy L.
This comment reviews developments in the evolving relationship between the agencies and the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) administrative law judges (ALJs) regarding agency modifications of the ALJ’s findings of fact or conclusions of law expressed in a proposal for decision in a contested case or alternately, agency rejection of the proposal altogether. First, it reviews the mandate for independent ALJs and outlines the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) rulemaking process. Next, it analyzes the deference an agency must give to the SOAH ALJ proposal for decision and the standards that apply to changes to such a proposal an agency makes in issuing its final order in a case. Then, it examines amendments to agency rules which detail criteria for agency administrators to change a proposal decision from a SOAH ALJ. Finally, it focuses on one agency’s rules, court criticism of the board’s application of those rules, and the inherent conflict between the agency and the independent hearing examiner (ALJ).
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