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Glossary for Administrative Hearings

This glossary is intended to give only simple definitions of some words used frequently by the Office of Administrative Hearings. In addition to this glossary, you should look at the statutes, regulations, or other law to see if there is a more specific legal definition of a word or phrase in the context of your hearing. 



-- A --

Adjudicative Proceeding
See Administrative Hearing.


Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbiter or judge reviews evidence and argumentation including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants to come to a decision which determines rights and obligations between the parties involved. Three types of disputes are resolved through adjudication: disputes between private parties, such as individuals or corporations; disputes between private parties and public officials; and disputes between public officials or public bodies.


Administrative Hearing
A hearing, generally conducted by an administrative law judge, involving an agency (such as the Department of Social and Health Services or the Employment Security Department) and one or more other parties.  Administrative Hearings are not as formal as hearings held by judges in court. The rules of most Administrative Hearings in Washington are found in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Model Rules of Procedure for Administrative Hearings, although each agency may also have more specific regulations governing the hearing.


Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
The person who conducts administrative hearings. The Office of Administrative Hearings employs approximately 70 administrative law judges in different offices throughout the state to conduct administrative hearings.


Administrative Procedure Act (APA)
This is a statute (Chapter 34.05 RCW) governing most administrative hearings in Washington. In addition to the Administrative Procedure Act, each agency may have more specific statutes or rules governing hearings.

Click here to access the Administrative Procedure Act online.


Administrative Record
The official record of an administrative hearing. This will usually consist of pleadings (such as notice of an action and a request for hearing), hearing exhibits, testimony given under oath, and arguments of the parties . The administrative law judge or other decision-maker is permitted to consider only the administrative record, as well as the law applicable to the case.


A statement made under oath and notarized by a Notary Public . Generally, a sworn statement may also be made in a Declaration , which does not require a Notary Public.


See Administrative Law Judge .


A change, such as to a law or contract.


See Administrative Procedure Act.


A request to change a decision or order. Usually an appeal will seek review of the decision by a different decision-maker. For example, a party may appeal the decision of an agency, and this may result in an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge . A party may appeal the decision of an Administrative Law Judge, and this may result in review by the agency or by the superior court. The rules governing appeals vary depending on the decision being appealed, and usually involve strict deadlines.


One of the parties to a case. The appellant is called this because he or she is appealing an action or a decision. The other parties might be called the respondent, or might be an administrative agency.


-- B --

A written argument.


-- C --

The heading of each legal document that contains the name of the agency or court, the names of the parties , the docket number, and the name of the document itself.


A person making a claim. For example, in hearings involving the Employment Security Department, the party who has made a claim for unemployment benefits is called the claimant.


Start, beginning.


A formal document in which a person or administrative agency alleges facts and states what the person is asking for, such as a penalty imposed against someone else.


Postponing the hearing to a later date.


Asking questions of the other party or the other party's witness after their direct testimony is finished.


-- D --

See Division of Child Support .


A written statement that the signer swears under penalty of perjury is true.


Loss of the right to participate in a hearing or challenge a decision, such as for failure to timely appeal a decision or to appear at the hearing.


Direct testimony
Statements made under oath by a party or the party's witness. After a party or witness testifies, the other party has the right to ask questions on cross examination . After that, the administrative law judge might ask if there is any "re-direct", meaning "Do have any more direct testimony in light of questions asked on cross-examination?"


Exchange of information, such as exhibits and information about what the testimony will be, prior to a hearing.


The administrative law judge's freedom to decide an issue. Some issues are clearly decided by law, and the administrative law judge is said to have very little or no discretion. On other issues the administrative law judge might be said to have wide discretion.


Division of Child Support
Division of the Department of Social and Health Services that helps one parent or custodian collect child support from the other parent. Formerly known as the Office of Support Enforcement.


Department of Social and Health Services


-- E --

Equitable Estoppel
A legal doctrine that bars (stops) a person (or other entity, such as an administrative agency) from having a legal right based on the person's prior act or conduct. This doctrine may be a defense if the Department of Social and Health Services is asking that a client repay an overpayment. The party must prove each of the following elements:

  1. a party's admission, statement or act inconsistent with its later claim;
  2. action by another party in reliance on the first party's act, statement or admission; and
  3. injury that would result to the relying party from allowing the first party to contradict or repudiate the prior act, statement or admission.

In addition, if equitable estoppel is being asserted against the government (such as DSHS), the party must prove: (4) the application of the defense is necessary to prevent a manifest injustice and (5) will not impair the exercise of governmental powers.


For further useful information about this defense, visit the Washington Law Help site by clicking on the following link at


An exhibit or testimony submitted during an a administrative hearing to prove a fact or facts. The administrative law judge will consider evidence in the hearing record in order to make findings of fact.


Exclusion of Witnesses
Keeping witnesses out of the hearing room until it is their turn to testify.


A document or other thing presented by a party during an administrative hearing to show or convince the administrative law judge what the facts are.


Ex Parte
Communication between an administrative law judge and a party without the other parties being present. Ex Parte contacts about a case are generally not allowed, except for answering questions about hearing procedures.

Click here for the specific rule on ex parte communications in the Administrative Procedure Act.


-- F --

Fair Hearing
The term used for an administrative hearing involving a client of the Department of Social and Health Services.


Fair Hearings Coordinator
An employee of the Department of Social and Health Services who represents the Department in fair hearings ( administrative hearings ).


Fax, filing by
See Filing.


Delivering papers to the court or to the Office of Administrative Hearings. The general rules for filing, including filing by fax, are in the Model Rules of Procedure at WAC 10-08-110.


Final Order
An order that is the final DSHS decision in the case. A final order is issued by either an ALJ or a DSHS review judge, depending on the type of case. A final order may be reconsidered upon written request and may be appealed to Superior Court (called judicial review) upon written request. DSHS may not request judicial review.


-- G --

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-- H --

Hearing Record
See Administrative Record.


-- I --

Initial Order
A hearing decision made by an administrative law judge that may be reviewed by a higher administrative authority, such as the Employment Security Department's Commissioner's Review Office or the Department of Social and Health Services' Board of Appeals.


-- J --

Judicial Notice
A determination by an administrative law judge that a fact is true even if the parties have not presented evidence about it. Usually this occurs when the fact is common knowledge and undisputed. See also Official Notice.


The authority of the administrative law judge to hear and decide a case. The authority of the administrative law judge is limited by statutes and regulations. Those statutes might give a deadline of when an appeal must be filed or what types of actions by an agency create a right to an administrative hearing . Therefore, if a party does not meet the requirements of a statute the administrative law judge might dismiss the case based on not having jurisdiction.


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Lay Advocate
A representative who is not an attorney. Some lay advocates, such as certain paralegals, have training and experience in representing parties in administrative hearings.


Leading Question
A question that suggests what the answer should be. Example: "Isn't it true that they always arrive at work at 8:00 a.m.?" Usually the administrative law judge will not allow a party to ask leading questions during the direct testimony of a witness, unless the question is only for background, such as "Are you the social worker assigned to the Appellant's case?"


-- M --

A process by which parties to a dispute attempt to reach an agreement with the help of a mediator.


Model Rules of Procedure for Administrative Hearings
General regulations governing administrative hearings , although each agency may also have more specific regulations.

Click here to access the Model Rules of Procedure online.


A change.


No longer requiring a decision. For example, if a party would no longer be affected by the decision in a case, the case might become moot.


A request made to the administrative law judge , either in writing or orally, often at the time of a prehearing conference or hearing.


-- N --

Notary Public
A person who authenticates a signature by determining that the person signing is truly the person of that name. Most banks have a notary public who can notarize documents. The document must be signed in the presence of the notary public.


-- O --

Office of Support Enforcement
Former name for Division of Child Support.


Official Notice
A determination by an administrative law judge that a fact is true even if the parties have not presented evidence about it. For the law regarding official notice, see RCW 34.05.452(5).


See Office of Support Enforcement.


Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.


-- P --

One of the participants in a hearing. The parties to the hearing are listed in the caption . The parties are often given special names in administrative hearings, depending on their roles. These names might be claimant , petitioner , appellant , or respondent , depending on the type of hearing. An administrative agency might also be considered to be one of the parties to an administrative hearing . In hearings involving child support, the parties are usually designated as the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.


The crime of telling a lie under oath.


A formal request. An example is a petition for review (appeal).


One of the parties to a case. The petitioner is called this because he or she is petitioning or asking for something. The other party might be called the respondent , or might be an administrative agency.


A legal document in which a party sets forth a claim, response, or request. Examples are notices of action by administrative agencies, complaints , and requests for hearings.


Prehearing Conference
(1) A conference between the administrative law judge and the parties, usually by telephone, in which procedural issues are discussed. These may include the date and time of the hearing, deadlines for exchanging evidence , as well as clarification about what the hearing issues will be. All or part of a prehearing conference with the administrative law judge will usually be tape recorded for the hearing record.


(2) A second type of "prehearing conference" is a conference between the parties, such as the representative of the Department of Social and Health Services and an appellant. In this prehearing conference they will clarify to each other their positions, their evidence, and negotiate to see if all or some of the issues can be resolved before the hearing. This conference is "off the record", and the administrative law judge will not hear evidence about these negotiations.


Presiding Officer
The person who conducts a hearing. In some types of hearings, the administrative law judge is also called the presiding officer.


Prima Facie
Latin for "at first sight" or "on its face." A party has a prima facie case or defense if the party has enough evidence to win if the other party does not present evidence to contradict it.


Pro Bono
For free. A pro bono attorney is an attorney who provides services at no charge to the client.


Pro Se
Acting without the aid of an attorney; representing yourself.


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-- R --

See Revised Code of Washington.


Response to evidence presented by the other party.


A request that an administrative law judge review and change his or her final order in a case. This is usually done if the requesting party believes that the ALJ overlooked a fact or law, and therefore made a mistake that the ALJ can and should fix. Reconsideration can also be requested from a final order issued by a DSHS review judge.


Click here for the provision in the Administrative Procedure Act about filing a request for reconsideration.


Record of the Proceedings
See Administrative Record.


A person, such as an attorney, who represents one of the parties to a hearing.


One of the parties to a case. The respondent is called this because he or she is responding to (answering) an action started by another party, who might be called the appellant, the petitioner, or might be an administrative agency.


Revised Code of Washington (RCW)
The statutes of the state of Washington enacted by the Washington legislature. In contrast, the Washington Administrative Code contains regulations adopted by various Washington agencies.

Click here to access the RCW online.


-- S --

Delivering documents to the other party (or, in the case of a subpoena, to a witness). There are different requirements in the law about how documents must be served, depending on what type of hearing is involved, and what type of documents are served. Types of service including personal service (such as having the document hand delivered by a sheriff), certified mail return receipt, or sending by mail.


The right to be a party to a hearing or to assert a claim. An administrative law judge might dismiss a claim based on a person having no standing if the person would not be affected by the outcome. An example is if person A files a claim asserting that person B is entitled to some benefit, the judge might find that person A has no standing.


Law. In Washington, the statutes are found in the Revised Code of Washington. The federal statutes are in the U.S. Code.


Stop an order or action from taking immediate effect.


An agreement between all parties to a hearing. For example, the parties might stipulate to some or all of the facts, and therefore will not have to present evidence about those facts. Parties might discuss prior to the hearing if they agree to any stipulations. Stipulations will either be made in writing before the hearing, or may be stated on the record by the parties after the hearing starts.


An order requiring a witness to appear at a particular time and place to testify and/or produce documents. The party who requests that a witness be subpoenaed is responsible for making sure that the witness is properly served and for paying the witness fee.

Click here for the rules in the Administrative Procedure Act about subpoenas for administrative hearings.


Subpoena Duces Tecum
A form of subpoena requiring a person to provide the documents either before or at the hearing.


Summary Judgment
A decision by the administrative law judge without a hearing. A party might move for summary judgment if the party believes that the party must win as a matter of law based on written evidence and/or admissions that were made by the other party. The other party may respond with argument and evidence showing there are material issues of fact that can be decided only after a full hearing.


-- T --

A statement of fact made by a party or witness during an administrative hearing under oath. See also direct testimony.


A document, generally prepared by a court reporter, that sets forth what was said at a hearing. The court reporter will not prepare a transcript unless requested by a party or the administrative law judge.


-- U --

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-- V --

Make void or undo. To vacate an order of dismissal means to undo the order, so that the hearing or appeal is reinstated.


The place where the hearing takes place, usually based on where the parties live or where the event occurred.


-- W --

See Washington Administrative Code.


Voluntarily give up, such as give up a right. Sometimes an administrative law judge will ask a party : "Do you waive your right to representation?" This means "Do you give up your right to have someone else represent you in this hearing?"


Washington Administrative Code (WAC)
Regulations (rules) adopted by various Washington agencies. In contrast, the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) contains statutes enacted by the Washington Legislature.

Click here to access the WAC online.


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-- Y --

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Links to other glossaries or legal dictionaries Dictionary

Nolo's Law Dictionary

Northwest Justice Project 

Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Findlaw Dictionary

A Guide to Terms Used in Washington Courts


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Additional Information

Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings | Build Version: 1.04c