Contested Case Hearing Preparation

Your hearing will be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) appointed and employed by the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The ALJ is not an employee of the Agency that will be deciding this contested matter. The ALJ has not discussed the merits of your case with either the agency or with any other interested parties, unless there has been a prehearing conference with all the parties. The ALJ will strive to conduct a fair, efficient hearing. After the hearing, the ALJ will weigh the evidence and arguments without any predisposition to either accept or reject the proposed agency action, and will prepare findings of fact, conclusions and recommendations to the agency. The agency makes the final decision in most cases.

PREPARATION FOR THE HEARING

Settlement – If you would like to discuss settling your case without a hearing, call the agency representative listed on the Notice and Order for Hearing. There is often room for compromise. You may also request mediation rather than a contested hearing. A skilled mediator may be able to help you and the agency find a way to settle the dispute. If mediation fails, you must be prepared to go to hearing.

Witnesses – Bring all witnesses to the hearing who have first-hand knowledge that will support your case. If the witness is not willing to come but you believe the testimony is necessary, you may ask the judge to issue a subpoena that will order the witness to come to the hearing. You must request the subpoena and arrange to have it served on the witness a reasonable time before the hearing date. You may testify yourself.

Documents – Bring all documents to the hearing that will support your case. Have a copy for the judge, and a copy for every other party. The copy you give to the judge will not be returned; it will become a permanent part of the hearing record. If an agency or any other party has documents you would like to see, send a written request for the documents well in advance of the hearing to the agency or party who has the documents. If the documents are not provided, you may ask the judge for assistance.

Communication with the ALJ – If you must communicate with the judge for any reason prior to the hearing, send a copy of your communication to the other parties, or arrange a telephone conference call with the judge and other parties.

Materials – Bring a paper and pen to the hearing to jot down questions that you would like to ask or to remind yourself of points you would like to make.

Be on Time - Allow sufficient time to locate the building, park and locate the hearing room. If your hearing is at OAH in St. Paul, the room number will be posted on an electronic sign in the reception area on the first floor. Please enter the hearing room and be seated unless another hearing is under way. Judges ordinarily begin the hearings right on time.

Get a Look at Our Process Before the Hearing – The OAH has posted an 8-minute video to the internet that describes our hearing process and brings you inside one of our courtrooms. The video is accessible by clicking on the following link: OAH Video Guide to Hearings.

AGENDA FOR THE HEARING

Opening the Hearing – The judge will start the hearing by assuring that everyone is introduced and that the participants’ names and addresses are recorded. Then, the judge will explain the procedures that will be followed, and the order of presentation.

Opening Statement – After the judge has explained the process, each party may make a short opening statement, summarizing what the party’s evidence will show.

Presentation by the agency or other initiating party - The agency will call its witnesses and produce the documents that support its case. You will have the opportunity to cross-examine each of the agency’s witnesses and to object to documents that you believe should not be considered. The judge will decide which documents will be considered, and their importance.

Respondent’s presentation – You will have the opportunity to call your witnesses, to testify yourself and to introduce documents that support your case. The agency will have the opportunity to cross-examine your witnesses and may object to your documents.

Rebuttal – The agency may want to introduce some additional evidence to rebut your presentation.

Closing argument – Each party may make a short closing statement, summarizing how the evidence supports their case. Sometimes the closing arguments are submitted in writing after the hearing has ended.

GUIDELINES

Purpose of the hearing – The purpose is to consider whether the proposed agency action described in the notice of hearing should be taken. The evidence must be directed to that purpose.

Rules of procedure – The rules governing contested cases are set forth in Minnesota Rules 1400.5010, and following. See especially Rule 1400.7800, Conduct of Hearing. The Rules are available from the Minnesota Bookstore (Metro: 651-297-3000; Toll Free: 800-657-3757) or by clicking on the following link: Minnesota Administrative Rules.

Recording the hearing – The hearing will be recorded by a digital recorder or court reporter. Any party may request that a transcript be prepared or an audio copy. There is a charge for these services.

Creating a proper record – To assure that the record is complete and accurate, the witnesses must observe the following rules: a) only one person can speak at a time; b) all answers must be spoken out loud (neither the digital recorder nor court reporter can record gestures or the nodding of the head); c) technical terms and proper names must be spelled.

Civility to other participants – An administrative hearing is somewhat less formal than a court trial and the rules of evidence are more lenient. However, the participants are expected to treat each other cordially and with due respect for the seriousness of the proceeding.

More information - If you still have questions after reviewing this information, please call 651-361-7900 and ask to speak to one of the Administrative Law staff attorneys. They can answer general questions about procedure, but they cannot provide you with legal advice.

Need a Lawyer? You are not required to have a lawyer at OAH, but lawyers are most often very helpful. You may call the Volunteer Lawyers Network at 612-752-6677 for referral to free or reduced-cost legal services if you are eligible. Even if you are not eligible, they will refer you to lawyers that represent individuals or businesses in Administrative Law cases such as yours. Your county Bar Association may also have a lawyer referral service.