Frequently Asked Questions about the Hearing Process

1. Where is the Office of Administrative Hearings located?

1. Where is the Office of Administrative Hearings located?

The Office of Administrative Hearings is located at 1711 New Hope Church Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. Office hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday. The office is closed for all State holidays.

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2. What is the Hearings Division of the Office of Administrative Hearings?

2. What is the Hearings Division of the Office of Administrative Hearings?

The Office of Administrative Hearings is an independent State agency which provides impartial Administrative Law Judges to conduct fair and prompt hearings for persons affected by State agency actions. The Office of Administrative Hearings serves as a quasi-judicial tribunal for the expedient, independent, and impartial adjudication of contested cases. Its mission is to provide a neutral forum for handling administrative hearings for certain State agencies, with respect for the dignity of individuals and their due process rights.

3. What is an administrative hearing?

3. What is an administrative hearing?

An administrative hearing is a legal proceeding before an impartial Administrative Law Judge designed to review a State or local agency decision. Each party to an administrative hearing has a right to present and question witnesses and to submit or challenge documents regarding the decision. The result of the proceeding is a decision to affirm, modify, or set aside the original agency decision.

4. What is an Administrative Law Judge?

4. What is an Administrative Law Judge?

An Administrative Law Judge is a judge employed by the Office of Administrative Hearings who is charged with the duty of providing a fair and impartial hearing. The Administrative Law Judge is not employed by the regulating agency.

5. How does the administrative hearing process work?

5. How does the administrative hearing process work?

Whenever a State agency takes an administrative action, the affected person receives notice. This notice of agency action must include the pertinent statutory and regulatory sections under which the agency is taking its action. It also must provide information regarding what, if anything, a person must do to receive a hearing. Anyone who decides to request a hearing must do so within the time frames set forth in the notice.

6. What are my rights?

6. What are my rights?

You have the following rights in connection with your hearing:

  • To present evidence on any relevant issue;

  • To be represented by counsel at your expense;

  • To subpoena witnesses and documentary evidence;

  • To cross-examine witnesses; and

  • Such other rights as are conferred by law and/or rule.

7. How do I know what rules to follow?

7. How do I know what rules to follow?

A copy of the Hearings Division rules is available on our website.

Get a copy of the Hearings Division rules

8. How do I file a Petition for a contested case hearing?

8. How do I file a Petition for a contested case hearing?

Petition forms are available on the Hearing Forms page or by contacting the Clerk's Office.

Petitions are not required to be filed on the provided form, but use of the form may assist you in including all necessary information. If more space is needed to complete the form, you can attach additional sheets. You may also attach any information or document you feel explains your case. Be sure to state facts that show exactly what you think the agency did wrong.

BE SURE TO FILE YOUR PETITION IN A TIMELY MANNER. NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL STATUTE 150B-23(f) SETS THE TIME LIMIT FOR FILING A PETITION AS FOLLOWS:
Unless another statute or a federal statute or regulation sets a time limitation for the filing of a petition in contested cases against a specified agency, the general limitation for the filing of a petition in a contested case is 60 days. The time limitation, whether established by another statute, federal statute, or federal regulation, or this section, shall commence when notice is given of the agency decision to all persons aggrieved who are known to the agency by personal delivery or by the placing of the notice in an official depository of the United States Postal Service wrapped in a wrapper addressed to the person at the latest address given by the person to the agency.

NOTE: THE TIME LIMIT WITHIN WHICH YOUR PARTICULAR CASE MUST BE FILED COULD BE LESS THAN THAT SET OUT ABOVE. BE SURE TO VERIFY THE FILING TIME LIMIT FOR YOUR SPECIFIC CASE.

THE ORIGINAL PETITION AND THE FILING FEE (IF REQUIRED) MUST BE FILED WITH THE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS, AND ONE COPY OF THE PETITION MUST BE SENT TO THE AGENCY AGAINST WHICH YOU ARE FILING YOUR PETITION.

Please see Filing a Contested Case for additional information.

9. When is my Petition considered filed? Is there a filing fee for my case?

9. When is my Petition considered filed? Is there a filing fee for my case?

The Office of Administrative Hearings accepts filings Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, except for official State holidays. A Petition is considered filed when it is received and accepted in the Office of Administrative Hearings during normal office hours and is accompanied by the filing fee where required.

Additional information about filing fees is available on the Contested Case Filing Fees page.  The Clerk's Office will notify you if a filing fee is required in your case. Payment may be made by cash (only if made in person at OAH, 1711 New Hope Church Road, Raleigh, NC), money order, certified check, or check drawn on an attorney's trust account or operating account. Note that non-certified personal checks are not accepted. People who are registered e-filers may pay their fee by credit or debit card (Mastercard or Visa) through the OAH e-filing system.  Additional information about registering for OAH's e-filing system can be found in our E-filing Registration Guide.

10. Completing the Petition: Who is the Respondent?

10. Completing the Petition: Who is the Respondent?

The Respondent is normally the agency named by the Petitioner as the party to respond to the Petitioner's grievance.

11. Completing the Petition: How do I complete the Certificate of Service section?

11. Completing the Petition: How do I complete the Certificate of Service section?

In addition to the Petition you send to the Office of Administrative Hearings, one copy of your Petition must be sent to the agency against which you are filing your Petition.  The Certificate of Service section of the Petition should be completed by providing the name, agency, and address where you sent the copy of your Petition.  Additionally, you should include the date you sent the copy to the agency and your signature.

The name of the person to serve may be listed on your original notice from the agency against whom your case will be filed or you may contact the agency and ask for the name of the process/registered agent (this is the person in the agency who accepts service of legal documents). The NC Department of Justice also maintains a register of all process agents and their addresses for State government departments and agencies on its website.

12. Can I fax or email documents? Can I upload documents through the website?

12. Can I fax or email documents? Can I upload documents through the website?

Registered e-filer's documents must be filed by uploading the document in either PDF format or Word format through the OAH e-filing website. Additional information about registering for OAH's e-filing system can be found in our E-filing Registration Guide. Individual document size is limited to 20MB. Documents over 20MB can be filed in multiple submissions that are labeled accordingly (for example: "Motion to Continue part 1 of 2" and "Motion to Continue part 2 of 2").  Registered e-filers may not fax or email documents.

Documents may be filed by fax provided the original signed document and the filing fee (where required) is received by the Office of Administrative Hearings within seven business days following the faxed transmission.

Documents may be filed by email with an attached file either in PDF format or Word format. Email with attachment must be sent by electronic transmission to oah.clerks@oah.nc.gov. The electronic transmission shall be deemed a filing provided the original signed document and the filing fee (where required) is received by the Office of Administrative Hearings within seven business days following the electronic transmission.

13. Once I file my Petition, what happens next?

13. Once I file my Petition, what happens next?

After your Petition is completed and properly filed, your case will be assigned to an Administrative Law Judge, and the Clerk's Office will send the parties a packet which will include the initial documents in the case.

These documents may include the following:

Notice of Contested Case and Assignment -- This document notifies the parties of the name of the Administrative Law Judge who has been assigned to the case and orders the agency to submit the document containing the agency decision with which you disagree.

Order for Prehearing Statements -- The Prehearing Statement is designed to give the parties and the Administrative Law Judge more information about the case and also help the Administrative Law Judge in scheduling the hearing. It is important to file a Prehearing Statement, otherwise your case may be subject to dismissal.

Scheduling Order -- This document shows the dates for the close of discovery, exchange of final witness lists and exhibits, and the hearing week.

Hearing Assistant/Court Reporter Request Form -- All hearings on the merits are recorded. You can choose to have a hearing assistant who is provided by the Office of Administrative Hearings at no cost to the parties and records the hearing on four-track tape or CD, or you can choose to have a court reporter who is an independent contractor qualified as a court reporter using the stenorette/stenomask type recording system used in the trial courts. The party requesting a court reporter must pay the court reporter fees. Appearance fees range from forty dollars ($40.00) to one hundred and twenty dollars ($120.00) per day. All charges are subject to N.C. Sales Tax. If a court reporter is not given a 24-hour notice of cancellation of a hearing, a one-day appearance fee is usually charged. This fee will be charged against the party(ies) responsible for the cancellation. Additional charges are made if a transcript of the hearing is ordered by a party. The cost of the transcript is based upon the number of pages contained in the transcript. (See question 39 Will there be a transcript of the hearing and how do I get a copy?)

14. What are statutes, rules, and legal precedent, and where can I find them?

14. What are statutes, rules, and legal precedent, and where can I find them?

Statutes are the laws established by the legislature and can be found at most law libraries and some public libraries.

Rules are the regulations adopted by an agency and in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Administrative Code. The Code can be found in some law libraries and some public libraries and on our website:  North Carolina Administrative Code

Legal precedent is a decision(s) of a court which is close in facts or legal principles to your case. Court decisions are published in reporters which can be found in law libraries and with some online services.

15. What is a mediation?

15. What is a mediation?

A mediation (also known as a mediated settlement conference ) is a type of dispute resolution conducted by a neutral person, known as a mediator, who acts to encourage and facilitate a resolution to the case. If your case is sent to mediation, you and the other party must agree on a mediator. A list of mediators and additional information to assist you with this decision is available on the North Carolina Court Information System website. If the parties are unable to agree on a mediator, the presiding Administrative Law Judge will choose one for you. The parties are required to pay the cost of the mediation. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0207.

16. What is a settlement conference?

16. What is a settlement conference?

A settlement conference is a type of dispute resolution conducted by an Administrative Law Judge other than the presiding Administrative Law Judge, who acts to encourage and facilitate a resolution to the case. There is no cost to the parties involved in a settlement conference. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0107.

17. What is the benefit of my case being sent to either mediation or to a settlement conference?

17. What is the benefit of my case being sent to either mediation or to a settlement conference?

Both mediation and settlement conferences are very successful methods of resolving cases and save all the parties time, money, and the risk of losing their case. If your case does not settle in either mediation or a settlement conference, it will move forward to hearing. Neither mediation nor a settlement conference will delay the hearing process.

18. My case was ordered to a mediation; how can I get it out of mediation?

18. My case was ordered to a mediation; how can I get it out of mediation?

You may file a motion with the presiding Administrative Law Judge setting out a valid reason for the case to be taken out of mediation. It will be within the discretion of the Judge whether to grant your motion.

19. If my case was not ordered to either a mediation or a settlement conference, can I request mediation or a settlement conference?

19. If my case was not ordered to either a mediation or a settlement conference, can I request mediation or a settlement conference?

Yes. A request can be made to the presiding Administrative Law Judge that the case be sent to either mediation or a settlement conference.

20. Is there a way to settle my case without going to mediation or a settlement conference?

20. Is there a way to settle my case without going to mediation or a settlement conference?

Cases are often settled when the two parties talk with each other. Contact the attorney for the agency to see if you can work something out. It is perfectly appropriate for the parties to discuss settlement between themselves. If you do reach a settlement, you need to let the Administrative Law Judge know that the case has been settled and that you would like to withdraw your petition.  It is generally acceptable to submit this information in writing, but you may call the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal to inquire about the preferred submission method or to inform the paralegal if the information is time-sensitive (for example:  if your case is scheduled for a hearing soon and you need to ensure that the paralegal is informed of the settlement before the hearing date).

21. How do I get an extension/continuance?

21. How do I get an extension/continuance?

You may request an extension of a deadline or a continuance of a scheduled event (such as a hearing, mediation, or settlement conference) by filing a request (also called a motion, see question 22 What is a motion?) with the presiding Administrative Law Judge setting out the reason for the requested extension or continuance and how much time you will need. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0118.

22. What is a motion?

22. What is a motion?

A motion is a written request to the Administrative Law Judge for the purpose of obtaining an order directing some act to be done. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0115.

23. Do I need to respond to a motion?

23. Do I need to respond to a motion?

If another party to your case files a motion, a copy of the motion will be sent to you by the party who filed it.  You will have ten (10) days from date of service to file a written response to a motion; whether you respond is your decision. If you do not respond, the Judge will not know if you have any objections to the motion and may make a decision based only on what the other party has submitted.

24. Can I see the other parties' evidence?

24. Can I see the other parties' evidence?

Generally, you may be able to see the evidence against you and the other party may see your evidence. This is called discovery. (See question 25 What is discovery?) You must make written requests to the other party in order to be assured of getting discovery.

25. What is discovery?

25. What is discovery?

Discovery is the acquiring of previously unknown facts and information about the case by one party from the other party through pretrial procedures such as depositions, interrogatories, and exchanging of exhibits to assist the party in preparing for trial. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0112. Do not send discovery documents (such as interrogatories or request for production of documents) to the Office of Administrative Hearings; send them to the other party. The documents should only be filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings if there is a problem, and you want to file a motion to compel discovery.

26. What are exhibits?

26. What are exhibits?

Exhibits are physical/tangible evidence such as papers or documents which are submitted to the Administrative Law Judge as proof of facts presente  d during the hearing. Exhibits are usually compiled into an exhibit notebook. Two copies of all exhibits must be presented to the Administrative Law Judge and one copy of all exhibits must be presented to the other party involved in the case.  The Administrative Law Judge may require you to file a a complete copy of all admitted exhibits after the hearing, even if you filed a complete copy prior to the hearing.  The presiding Judge will inform you if (s)he is requiring additional submission of exhibits. 

27. How do I subpoena witnesses?

27. How do I subpoena witnesses?

Subpoenas along with instructions may be obtained through our website by clicking here or by contacting the Office of Administrative Hearings. Subpoenas may be served by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, or other State law enforcement officer or a person 18 years of age or older who is not a party to the case. Subpoenas may be served by telephone, but only by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, or other State law enforcement officer.  Subpoenas may also be served by delivery to the person named on the subpoena or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.

28. Do I need an attorney?

28. Do I need an attorney?

No individual is required by the Office of Administrative Hearings to have an attorney.  Parties that are not individuals but business entities (such as corporations) must be represented by an attorney or file a Notice of Non-Attorney Representation, found on the Hearings Forms page. The form contains additional information about when a business entity may be represented by a non-attorney.  State agencies are not individuals and, therefore, must be represented by an attorney.

An individual may represent himself or herself, but when a party wishes to be represented by another, that representative must be a licensed attorney (Note:  This does not apply to Medicaid Recipient Appeals). There are benefits to having an attorney in that attorneys have specialized training in the rules of evidence, rules of civil procedure, presentation of evidence, cross-examination, and, more importantly, the law. The agency you are challenging will be represented by an attorney, usually from the Attorney General's office, and the agency's attorney will object if you fail to present your evidence in the proper manner. The Office of Administrative Hearings may not give you legal advice. Administrative Law Judges will attempt to help you understand and follow the procedures to present your case if you are unrepresented, but it is ultimately up to you or your attorney to present your case using admissible evidence. Administrative Law Judges often see persons who try to represent themselves fail to bring key witnesses and evidence and who present their cases poorly. This can affect the result of your hearing.

29. Where will my hearing be held? Will I have to come to Raleigh?

29. Where will my hearing be held? Will I have to come to Raleigh?

While you have the right to request to have your case heard in your home county, the Office of Administrative Hearings has designated eight regions of the state to which the Administrative Law Judges travel to conduct hearings. When a Petition is filed, the hearing region is based on the county listed in the upper left corner of the Petition. These eight regions are: Morganton/Waynesville, Charlotte, High Point, Fayetteville, Bolivia, Elizabeth City/Halifax, New Bern, and Raleigh.  The Scheduling Order may list one of these regions as the location where your hearing will be held, but the Administrative Law Judge may change the location based on courtroom availability, party request, or convenience (for instance:  A Petition from Pitt County may be assigned the Elizabeth City/Halifax hearing region, but the Administrative Law Judge may ultimately schedule the hearing in Pitt County).  The Notice of Hearing listing the specific date, time, and location of the hearing is issued at least 15 days before the hearing date, but if you have questions or concerns about when or where the hearing will be scheduled, you may contact the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal.

30. Can I call the Administrative Law Judge?

30. Can I call the Administrative Law Judge?

An Administrative Law Judge cannot discuss the case with one party without the participation of all parties involved in the case. If you have a matter that needs to be addressed by the Administrative Law Judge prior to the hearing, you can contact the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal about scheduling a prehearing conference or telephone conference involving you and the agency attorney. The Judge's paralegal may recommend alternatives to scheduling a prehearing conference, such as submitting a written Motion or Status Report. The Judge's paralegal can assist you with procedural and scheduling matters, but no employee of the Office of Administrative Hearings can give you legal advice.

31. What will the hearing be like?

31. What will the hearing be like?

An administrative hearing is very similar to a trial in court, but without a jury. It is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge with witnesses, exhibits, and procedures. For the most part, the procedures governing the hearing are the rules of evidence and the rules of civil procedure. In some cases, the rules of evidence may be modified from those that are used in the trial courts. Even though you may be representing yourself, the agency or another party will be represented by an attorney.

When the hearing begins, the Administrative Law Judge will explain the hearing procedure to be used for your case. Each party may make opening statements. These statements, which are not evidence, are offered for the purpose of telling the Administrative Law Judge what you intend to prove. After opening statements, each party presents its case with witnesses and other evidence, such as documents (exhibits). You may be required to prove the authenticity of exhibits you present. Witness testimony must be taken under oath or affirmation. You may testify as a witness yourself, and you may call other witnesses to testify. To be admissible, evidence must meet certain legal requirements. For example, evidence must relate to the issues to be decided.

The type of case usually determines which party presents its case first. After a witness for another party is questioned (direct examination), you will have an opportunity to question the witness (cross-examination). Usually, the Administrative Law Judge will allow direct examination, cross-examination, and such further questions of each witness as the parties desire.

Any party may object to evidence presented. The reason for the objection must be stated. Then, the Administrative Law Judge will decide whether to admit (allow) the evidence. See North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03 .0122.

After all the evidence is presented, the Administrative Law Judge may ask for closing arguments. Closing arguments, like opening statements, are not evidence but, rather, a summary of what you believe the evidence shows and what you believe the law requires based upon the evidence. The Administrative Law Judge may require the parties to file written closing arguments (briefs) and/or proposed findings or decisions.

32. Must I be present at the hearing?

32. Must I be present at the hearing?

Yes, you must attend the hearing. If you fail to attend, the Administrative Law Judge may proceed with the hearing and the action requested by the agency may be granted. If an emergency arises and you will be late for the hearing, call the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal. If you cannot reach the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal, contact the Clerk's Office.

33. What is burden of proof?

33. What is burden of proof?

Burden of proof is the duty of a party to prove the facts in dispute by a preponderance (greater weight) of the evidence. The party proposing that an action be taken usually has the burden of proving the facts. The Administrative Law Judge will specify at the hearing which party has the burden of proof.

34. What should I bring to the hearing?

34. What should I bring to the hearing?

You should bring any documents or materials you want to present to the Administrative Law Judge as evidence. You should make arrangements to have any person or persons attend that you want to testify as a witness. Do not bring food or drink into the courtroom.

35. Can my hearing be conducted by telephone?

35. Can my hearing be conducted by telephone?

No. Except for hearings in Medicaid Recipient Appeals, all contested case hearings before the Office of Administrative Hearings must be recorded and the Office does not have means to conduct hearings by telephone. However, in an emergency situation, some witness testimony could be taken by telephone. The presiding Administrative Law Judge may conduct a motions hearing by telephone.

36. What is summary judgment?

36. What is summary judgment?

Summary judgment is a motion whereby a party who believes there is no genuine issue of material fact in a case requests that the Administrative Law Judge decide the case based on the pleadings, other portions of the record, or upon supporting affidavits.

37. What are affidavits?

37. What are affidavits?

Affidavits are written statements of personal knowledge made voluntarily and confirmed by oath or affirmation of the party making it, taken before a person who has the authority to administer an oath or affirmation. The affidavit must set forth facts that would be admissible in evidence and show that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein.

38. What if I decide not to go through with the hearing?

38. What if I decide not to go through with the hearing?

If you wish to end your case and cancel your hearing, you should notify the Administrative Law Judge that you do not want to proceed with the hearing and that you want to withdraw your petition.  It is generally acceptable to submit this information in writing, but you may call the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal to inquire about the preferred submission method or to inform the paralegal if the information is time-sensitive (for example: if your case is scheduled for a hearing soon and you need to ensure that the paralegal is informed of your withdrawal before the hearing date).  You should send a copy of your withdrawal to the other party and, if the information is time-sensitive, inform the other party of your withdrawal via telephone or email.

39. Will there be a transcript of the hearing and how do I get a copy?

39. Will there be a transcript of the hearing and how do I get a copy?

  • Most Contested Case Hearings:

A transcript of the hearing will be prepared only if requested. You can use the H-25C Transcript Request Form to order your transcript. If your hearing is recorded by a court reporter, requests and payment for copies of the transcript must be made directly with the court reporter.  Cost of the transcript is determined by the length of the hearing. Depending on the length of the hearing, some transcripts may be expensive, but transcripts become part of the OAH Official Record on appeal.

If you can't afford a transcript and your hearing was recorded by a hearing assistant, you may also purchase copies of the CDs or DVDs from which the transcripts are made using the H-25B Hearing CD/DVD Request Form. Audio recordings of your hearing on CD/DVD are usually less costly than a copy of the hearing transcript, but these recording copies are not considered part of the Official Record.

All charges are subject to N.C. Sales Tax.

  • Special Education Contested Cases:

The Director of the Division of Exceptional Children's Services has requested that all Special Education hearings be recorded by a court reporter. The Department of Public Instruction will pay the court reporter's appearance fee and other related costs. In addition, if any parent of an exceptional child who is a party in a Special Education Contested Case requests, in writing, a transcript of that hearing, the transcript will be provided to the parent at no charge. The Department will pay for the actual cost of the transcript. Such a request can be made using the H-25D Special Education Transcript Request Form.
 

40. When will the Administrative Law Judge issue a Decision in my case?

40. When will the Administrative Law Judge issue a Decision in my case?

In some cases, the Administrative Law Judge may issue a Decision before a hearing is conducted.  If a hearing was conducted in your case, the Administrative Law Judge may issue a Decision immediately following your hearing. In most cases, however, the Administrative Law Judge has 45 days from the close of the record to issue a Decision. The closing of the record will depend on whether the parties want to order a copy of the transcript and whether they will be submitting additional documents (such as proposed decisions). If the parties will be ordering a transcript and submitting additional documents (such as proposed decisions), the Administrative Law Judge will set a time as to when the documents must be submitted following receipt of the transcript. The Administrative Law Judge's 45 days will then run from the filing date of the documents submitted after the hearing.

41. What if I disagree with the Administrative Law Judge's Decision?

41. What if I disagree with the Administrative Law Judge's Decision?

A party may appeal a Final Decision by following the appeal procedures found in the last paragraph of the Final Decision before the Administrative Law Judge's signature, usually under the heading NOTICE.  Not all cases follow the same appeal procedure, so it is important to refer to the Final Decision for the appeal information for that specific case.  Your right to judicial review is set out in North Carolina General Statute 150B, Article 4.

If the Administrative Law Judge issues a Proposal for Decision in your case, the case then goes to the agency or a commission for review. The parties will have an opportunity to file exceptions to the Administrative Law Judge’s Proposal for Decision with the agency or commission. This procedure will be set out at the end of the decision in the last paragraph before the Judge’s signature. The agency or commission must follow certain procedures when reviewing the Judge's decision. Once the agency has issued its Final Decision, you may ask for judicial review in Superior Court.  Your right to judicial review is set out in North Carolina General Statute 150B, Article 4.

42. What if I have questions not addressed here?

42. What if I have questions not addressed here?

If you have filed a petition and know the name of the Administrative Law Judge to whom your case has been assigned, you may call the Administrative Law Judge's paralegal.  See the Hearings Staff page for a full list of Judges and their paralegals.

If you have not filed a petition or do not know the name of the Administrative Law Judge assigned to your case, you may call and speak with someone in the Clerk's Office.