guide has been prepared by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to explain
the administrative hearings process in New Jersey. It is important to
remember that the information presented in this guide is general and is
intended to cover the usual situation. The explanations do not cover all
of the possible situations that may arise in a case. If you have more
questions, consult the Uniform Administrative Procedure Rules that
are found in Title 1, Chapter 1 of the New Jersey Administrative Code.
(The legal citation is N.J.A.C.
1:1-1.1 et seq.)
When a case is sent to the OAL for a hearing, a Notice of Filing or a Notice of Filing and Hearing is mailed to the parties. This Notice indicates that the agency has sent the request for hearing to the OAL; it also contains other information that can help one prepare for the hearing, as well as a contact telephone number at the OAL. The Notice also contains a brief explanation of the basic issues that will be discussed at the hearing. The docket number (OAL DKT. NO.) that is used to identify the case throughout the OAL administrative process appears at the top right side of the Notice of Filing.
If appropriate to the subject matter of the case, a prehearing conference may be scheduled. The parties or their representatives and the ALJ will discuss the issues presented and the procedures that will be used at the hearing. The possibility of settling the case may also be discussed. The prehearing conference is usually conducted by telephone conference call. The Notice of Prehearing Conference indicates the time, date, and place of the prehearing conference, the name of the ALJ who will conduct the conference, whether it will be in person or by telephone, and what will be discussed at the conference. Any party may request a prehearing conference by letter or telephone call to the assigned judge, or if not yet advised of the name of the assigned judge, to the Clerk's office.
The Notice of Hearing provides information regarding the time, date, and place for the hearing, the name of the ALJ who will hear the case, and the procedures at the hearing. Usually this is sent out at least several weeks before the hearing, unless there are emergency circumstances.
If the date of the hearing or prehearing conference is a problem, an adjournment must be requested immediately. N.J.A.C. 1:1-9.6 explains the adjournment process. An adjournment will only be granted if there is a very good reason to do so that could not have been reasonably foreseen or prevented. Contact the OAL at the phone number listed on the Notice to request an adjournment. If the parties have already appeared before an ALJ, an adjournment request is made directly to the ALJ. The other party or parties to the case should be contacted to see if they will agree to an adjournment and to possible alternate dates before the OAL is contacted. When the OAL is notified, the party requesting an adjournment will be asked the reason for the request, whether or not the other parties have been contacted, and whether they agree to the adjournment. If the request is granted, a new date will be set for the conference or hearing. If there is a dispute regarding a request for adjournment, it may be necessary for the judge to hold a telephone conference with all parties to resolve the request.
or the gathering of information about the case prior to the hearing, should
begin immediately. Discovery in OAL hearings is explained in
N.J.A.C. 1:1-10.1 through 1:1-10.6.
Subpoenas N.J.A.C. 1:1-11
the testimony of a person who has firsthand knowledge of something important
to the case is necessary, he or she must attend the hearing and testify.
If he or she will not attend voluntarily, a subpoena must be issued. A
subpoena is a legal document that orders a person to appear at the hearing
and to give testimony. The subpoena form and instructions
may be found at this website. Subpoenas are delivered to the witnesses
either in person or by sending them certified mail (return receipt requested).
In either case, a record of the delivery should be maintained so that
there is proof that the subpoena was received by the person. The subpoena
should be delivered immediately in order to give the witness time to get
ready for the hearing. A witness fee must be included with the subpoena.
If the witness lives in the county where the hearing will be held, the
fee is $2.00 a day. If the witness lives in another county, the fee is
an additional $2.00 for every thirty miles the witness must travel. If
a party needs the testimony of a person who is an expert, such as a doctor,
an additional fee may be required.
The ALJ may be asked by the parties to make a number of decisions before the hearing begins and during the hearing itself. For example, the ALJ may be asked to change the hearing date, to decide whether a person must obey a subpoena, or to sustain an objection to a discovery request. The technical term for all these requests is a "motion." A motion should be made in writing to an ALJ with a copy to the other parties. A motion does not have to be in any special form; a letter is sufficient. Motions during the course of the hearing are usually made orally. More information about motions can be found in N.J.A.C. 1:1-12.1 through 1:1-12.7.
An attorney may represent a party or a party may present the case him or herself. Additionally, in some cases a non-lawyer may assist a party at the hearing. Some examples are, a paralegal or assistant employed by legal services; a principal of a close corporation; a union representative in a civil service case; and an individual who is permitted by federal law to appear in a Special Education case. In Family Development, Medical Assistance, and Youth and Family Services cases the non-lawyer can ask to be allowed to appear on the day of the hearing. In all other cases, the non-lawyer must complete a Notice of Appearance/Application form [available on this website] and return it to the OAL at least ten days before the hearing.
preparing for a hearing, it may be helpful to make a list of all information
that relates to the case and that needs to be presented. Bring the originals
and two copies of all documents to the hearing so that one can be given
to the other party and one to the ALJ.
OAL has hearing rooms in Newark, Trenton and Atlantic City. Every attempt will be made to schedule your hearing at a convenient location. The Notice of Hearing will tell you where the hearing will be held. Directions to the three offices of the OAL are available on this website.
In each case, the ALJ decides who will present evidence first and how
the hearing will proceed. This decision will be based on which party is
requesting the action, on which party has the most evidence, and on what
would be the most practical and orderly way to develop the issues in the
In some cases, the ALJ will ask for additional documents to be submitted after the hearing. It is also possible that the ALJ will ask for a written argument, or brief, after the hearing. This written argument can be in the form of a letter and simply states the factual and legal reasons that support a position on the case.
If the ALJ does not ask for additional documents or for briefs, the case ends on the last day of the hearing. If the ALJ asks for additional documents or briefs, a date will be set by which those documents must be received. The case will end on that date. The ALJ will not consider documents received after this date. A party cannot supply additional information, either to the ALJ or the agency head once the case ends. Prior to the issuance of the ALJ's decision, a motion may be filed to reopen the record, however, such motions are granted only for extraordinary circumstances. The decision usually is due within forty-five days from the date the case ended. In some cases the decision is due in less than forty-five days, if so, the ALJ will indicate the due date at the end of the hearing.
a settlement is reached before the hearing begins, the ALJ will ask the
parties to write out the terms of the agreement and to sign the settlement.
If it is not possible to do this on the hearing date, the ALJ will set
a date by which it must be prepared and signed.
If the party who requested the hearing no longer wishes to proceed with the hearing process, he or she must write to either the ALJ or the Clerk of the OAL. Upon receipt of the withdrawal, the case will be closed and the file returned to the agency. If a hearing request is withdrawn, the agency may proceed with any proposed action.
party, who has not appeared at the time and place of the hearing, must
call the ALJ immediately to explain why. If the ALJ is not contacted and
given an explanation for the failure to appear, the case will be sent
back to the agency. The agency may then proceed with any proposed action.
the hearing was tape recorded, a party must write to the Clerk of the
OAL to request a transcript. A deposit of $300.00 per hearing day must
accompany the request. The requesting party must also notify all parties
that the transcript was requested. When the transcript is ready, the requesting
party will be billed for the actual cost of preparation and reimbursed
for any overpayment.
party who objects to any of the information contained in the initial decision
may file exceptions with the agency head. Usually exceptions must be filed
within thirteen days from the date the initial decision was mailed to
the parties, but you should check the end of the initial decision because
in some case they must be filed sooner. The exceptions may be in a letter
and should explain the particular portions of the initial decision with
which you disagree and the specific reasons for the disagreement. Information
that was not presented during the hearing cannot be included in the exceptions.
A copy of the exceptions should also be sent to the other parties and
the ALJ. If the thirteen-day deadline cannot be met because you need to
order a transcript or get hearing tapes, write to the agency head and
ask for an extension. (See N.J.A.C.
1:1-18.8(d) and (e).
agency head can adopt, modify or reject the initial decision within forty-five
days of receiving it. If the agency head does not take any action within
the forty-five-day period, the initial decision automatically becomes
the final decision. A final decision that rejects or modifies the initial
decision must specify in detail the reason for rejection or modification
and the effect of the change. The final decision must also specify the
evidence that justifies the rejection or modification.
The time for issuing the initial and final decisions can be extended for forty-five days if the Director of the OAL and the head of the transmitting agency both sign an order agreeing to the extension. In that case, the parties will receive a copy of the order. The head of the agency that will issue the decision can grant an extension of the time for filing exceptions, again, there must be good cause for the extension.
party may appeal a final decision to the Appellate Division of the Superior
Court. The Notice of Appeal must be filed within 45 days of the date of
the final decision. The Rules Governing the Courts of the State of
New Jersey provide the rules and procedures for filing the appeal.
Information regarding filing an appeal may be obtained from: Appeals Information,
Superior Court of New Jersey, Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, PO Box
006, Trenton, New Jersey 08625.
(The hyperlinks in the preceding text are posted with the permission of LexisNexis.)