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About the Office of Administrative Hearings

 

Commitment to Fairness

Code of Ethics

The Office of Administrative Hearings has adopted a code of ethics for every Administrative Law Judge to ensure that we uphold the public’s expectations about fairness of the administrative dispute resolution process. We hold ourselves to these high standards in addition to adhering to the standards of the Ethics in Public Service Act and Code of Professional Responsibility.

Please click here to view the Office of Administrative Hearings Code of Ethics for Administrative Law Judges

 

Efficiency Review

In Fall 2009, the Office of Administrative Hearings contracted with a consultant, Framework LLC, to conduct a review of the agency’s work processes to identify opportunities for efficiency gains, improvements, and to assess the current case management capabilities. Framework completed its review and issued a report in May 2010 and may be viewed by clicking on the links below.

 

The agency's strategic plan will be updated to reflect the study results. The results will guide future agency projects and budget requests. Based on Framework's findings and recommendations, OAH will seek opportunities for more collaboration with stakeholders on business process improvements, service delivery enhancements, and improved access to justice.

 

 

 

 

Agency Chief Lorraine Lee

Governor appoints new Chief Administrative Law Judge

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Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Lorraine Lee as Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings on June 19, 2009.

 

Ms. Lee served as Chair of the Washington State Liquor Control Board since 2006. She also served as the Director of Licensing and Regulation for the WSLCB since 2002. She was the Assistant Director of the Washington State Lottery from 1997 to 2000 and Executive Policy Advisor for governors Gary Locke and Mike Lowry (1995 to 1997).

 

Ms. Lee served as staff attorney for the Washington Court of Appeals, Division II, from 2001 to 2002, and for the Washington Appellate Defender Association from 1991 to 1995. She was a lawyer for the United States Army, serving in the rank of Captain in Hawaii, Korea and Washington, D.C. from 1984 to 1990.

 

Ms. Lee attained her J.D. in 1983 from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School after attaining her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Washington in 1980. Ms. Lee grew up in eastern Washington and graduated from Moses Lake High School.

 

Agency Background

The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is an independent state agency made up of 74 administrative law judges (ALJs) who conduct impartial administrative hearings for Washington's citizens and governmental agencies. It is known as a "central-panel" ALJ agency.

 

In 1981, the Legislature created OAH to address two fundamental concerns in the state's administrative hearing process: 1) To improve the appearance of fairness issues caused by the adjudicator's employment by the agency responsible for the substantive decision in the dispute; and 2) To recognize the increasing complexity of agency procedural rules governing the hearing process. The result was passage of RCW Chapter 34.12, creating the Office of Administrative Hearings as an independent agency under the direction of a chief administrative law judge.

 

OAH has five field offices in Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver and Yakima. The caseload is vast. Last year, OAH handled more than 56,000 cases for 26 state agencies.

 

The greatest volume of cases are unemployment insurance cases for the Employment Security Department and public assistance and child support cases for the Department of Social and Health Services. A large number of hearings also are held for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Liquor Control Board and the Department of Licensing. Under its legislative mandate, OAH provides due process to the citizens of Washington by providing a prompt and fair opportunity to be heard on disputed matters before state and local agencies. OAH strives to provide access to justice and to eliminate barriers to participation in administrative hearings.

 

OAH impacts the lives of thousands of residents each year who participate in administrative proceedings. For many, this is their first and only experience with the legal system. Pro se parties often mistrust or fear the hearing process. OAH provides a system through which pro se litigants can navigate easily and participate in a meaningful way. There are no filing fees or costs for a hearing. The rules of evidence are relaxed and OAH staff is readily available to respond to questions about the hearing process.

 

The mantra for administrative hearings is the prompt resolution of disputes. Appeals received by OAH are promptly set for hearing before an ALJ. The ALJ regulates the course of the hearing, ensuring that a full and complete record is made. This is important because of the large number of pro se parties.

 

During the hearing, the parties have the right to present witnesses, conduct cross-examination, offer rebuttal evidence and make closing argument. The ALJ plays an active role in the hearing, asking questions on direct and assisting in cross-examination. After the hearing record is closed, the ALJ issues a written decision containing findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 

The Mission of the Office of Administrative Hearings

We independently resolve administrative disputes through accessible, fair, prompt processes and issue sound decisions.

 

Sources of OAH Appeals

Appeals filed against actions by the Department of Social and Health Services and the Employment Security Department account for more than 98 percent of the hearings held by OAH. Less frequent customers include:

 

 

Laws Relating Primarily to the Office of Administrative Hearings

 

Goals, Objectives, and Performance Measures of the Office of Administrative Hearings

Goals

  1. Quality.  To conduct high quality hearings and issue sound decisions.
  2. Timeliness.  To provide timely hearings and decisions.

Quality

  1. Continue to meet or exceed quality standards for 90% of hearings and decisions based on random quarterly samples.
  2. Continue to obtain 80% positive satisfaction ratings from periodic customer satisfaction surveys.
  3. Continue to obtain ratings of 4 or higher in standardized Department of Personnel surveys of employee satisfaction conducted every three years.

Timeliness

  1. Complete 80% of all cases within 90 days of filing the appeal.
  2. Complete 60% of unemployment insurance benefit cases within 30 days of filing the appeal, pursuant to U.S. Department of Labor timeliness standards.
  3. Complete 85% of unemployment insurance benefit cases within 45 days of filing the appeal, pursuant to U.S. Department of Labor timeliness standards.
  4. Complete 95% of unemployment insurance benefit cases within 90 days of filing the appeal, pursuant to U.S. Department of Labor timeliness standards.

Efficiency

  1. Reduce percentage of budget attributable to costs for office space.
  2. Develop system to distribute caseload and resources equitably to different field offices based on consistent measurements of productivity.

 

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