This outline is designed to give you basic information about how to represent yourself before the OAH. It is not legal advice about your particular case. After reading this, you also may want to watch the video on this website called "Representing Yourself at an OAH Hearing." You should be sure to review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) link on this website, under the “Contents” section and the links under "We Can Help You With . . ." for detailed information about administrative hearings at the OAH, including, but not limited to how to request a postponement, how to subpoena a witness, and how to file requests, motions, and other papers with the OAH. You can also find this information, and more, in the Rules of Procedure for the OAH published at Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 28.02.01.
Notices from state agencies will usually include instructions on how to file an appeal. The instructions will tell you where to file the appeal, the amount of time you have to file an appeal, and what forms or papers you may have to use. Make sure to follow those instructions. If you do not file an appeal within the timeframe, or you do not use the right forms, you may lose your right to challenge the decision. If you do not understand the instructions, you should call the state agency that issued the notice.
In some cases, you may have a right to challenge a decision from a state agency if the agency should have issued a decision by a certain date but has not done so.
An Administrative Law Judge will make a decision in your case based upon the law and the evidence presented by the parties in the case. You and the other person, or the state agency involved in your case, are the "parties" to the case.
Evidence is (1) sworn testimony presented to the Judge by witnesses, including you, if you testify; and (2) other items, usually documents or photographs, that each party offers as evidence to the Judge. The Judge will decide if the evidence is relevant, reliable, and probative. "Relevant" evidence is evidence that is related to the issues in your case. "Reliable" evidence is evidence that the Judge has found to be authentic. "Probative" evidence is evidence that helps make a fact that is related to the case more or less likely.
If the evidence that is offered is not relevant, reliable and probative, you or the other party may "object" to the evidence. The Judge will rule on the objection and tell you whether the evidence will be accepted.
The law the Judge will use to make a decision can be statutes, regulations, or other published decisions by the courts. The important statutes or regulations related to your case may be named in the agency’s notice or in the notice of hearing you receive from the OAH.
There are many different ways to choose what evidence will be important for your case. Consider some of the following suggestions:
Each party to a hearing has the right to present important information to a Judge during three parts of the hearing: (1) opening statements; (2) presentation of evidence; and (3) closing arguments. Each of these is explained more below.
Opening Statement - a short summary of what your case is about. Whatever you tell the Judge in your opening statement is not "evidence." You will have to present evidence -- sworn testimony or documents -- to support whatever you say in your opening statement. You can "waive" opening statement -- you do not have to present an opening statement if you do not want to.
Presentation of Evidence - The party the Judge tells to go first will call all its witnesses first. After these witnesses are presented, the other party calls all of their witnesses. When these witnesses finish, the judge may give the first party the chance to recall some witnesses to rebut evidence presented by the other party. A witness will be questioned during “Direct Examination” and “Cross-Examination,” and may be questioned under “Re-Direct Examination.” Every witness testifies through direct and cross examination, and sometimes redirect examination. See below for some helpful hints on how to handle each of these.
You must present all the evidence you think supports your case. Except in very rare cases, the Judge will not permit you to present evidence after this phase of the case.
Closing Argument - At the end of the hearing, each party can present a summary of his or her case. During this summary, you can explain to the Judge why the evidence you presented shows, under the law or regulations, that you should win the case. Make sure to include in your closing argument the remedy you want the Judge to order in his or her decision.
At the end of the hearing, the Judge will explain when the decision will be issued. In some hearings, the Judge may issue the decision immediately. In other hearings, the Judge will issue a written decision at a later date.
The Judge will also explain whether the decision will be a "final" decision or a decision that the Judge "proposes" or "recommends" be issued by the agency. If it is a final decision, the Judge will mail the decision to both parties and the decision will explain how to file an appeal if a party disagrees with it. In certain types of cases requiring a proposed or recommended decision, the Judge will mail a copy of his or her decision to all parties; but, in others the rules require the Judge to mail the decision only to the agency. In this kind of case, the agency will consider the Judge's decision, decide whether to accept the proposed or recommended decision, and the agency will then mail the decision to you. The decision you get will include an explanation of how to file exceptions to it, or how to appeal it, if you disagree with the agency’s ruling.
If you have any questions about the rules governing the type of decision in your case, please ask the Judge before you leave the hearing.
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