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Hearings - Frequently Asked Questions

This guide of frequently asked questions is issued for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in it may bind the Office of Administrative Hearings or one of its Administrative Law Judges to any practice or procedure described in it. This site is designed to generally explain some of the procedures of the Office of Administrative Hearings to help you prepare for your administrative hearing. This site is not a substitute for having an attorney. It is a guide to the most common kinds of cases that come before the Office of Administrative Hearings. However, not all cases are the same. Therefore, it is very important for you to read carefully the documents sent to you by the Office of Administrative Hearings. Those documents set forth the issues, deadlines and other matters involved in your case.


  1. Where is the Office of Administrative Hearings located?
  2. What is the Hearings Division of the Office of Administrative Hearings?
  3. What is an Administrative Hearing?
  4. What is an Administrative Law Judge?
  5. How Does The Administrative Hearings Process Work?
  6. What are my rights?
  7. How do I know what rules to follow?
  8. How do I file a Petition for a Contested Case Hearing?
  9. When is my petition considered filed? Is there a filing fee for my case?
  10. Who is the Respondent?
  11. How do I find out whom to serve on the certificate of service?
  12. Can I fax or e-mail documents? Can I upload documents through the web site?
  13. Once I file my Petition what happens next?
  14. What are statutes, rules and legal precedent and where can I find them?
  15. What is a Mediated Settlement Conference?
  16. What is a Settlement Conference?
  17. What is the benefit of my case being sent to either mediation or to a settlement conference?
  18. My case was ordered to a Mediated Settlement Conference; how can I get it out of mediation?
  19. If my case was not ordered to either a Mediated Settlement Conference or a Settlement Conference can I request mediation or a settlement conference?
  20. Is there a way to settle my case without going to mediation or a settlement conference?
  21. How do I get an extension/continuance?
  22. What is a Motion?
  23. Do I need to respond to a motion?
  24. Can I see the other parties' evidence?
  25. What is Discovery?
  26. What are exhibits?
  27. How Do I Subpoena Witnesses?
  28. Do I need an attorney?
  29. Where will my hearing be held (venue)? Will I have to come to Raleigh?
  30. Can I call the Administrative Law Judge?
  31. What will the hearing be like?
  32. Must I be present at the hearing?
  33. What is Burden of Proof?
  34. What should I bring to the hearing?
  35. Can my hearing be conducted by telephone?
  36. What is summary judgment?
  37. What are affidavits?
  38. What if I decide not to go through with the hearing?
  39. Will there be a transcript of the hearing and how do I get a copy?
  40. When will the Administrative Law Judge issue a decision in my case?
  41. What if I disagree with the Administrative Law Judge's decision?
  42. What if I have questions not addressed here?

The staff of the Hearings Division can assist you with procedural matters but no employee of the Office Of Administrative Hearings can give you legal advice.

NOTE: WHEN FILING ANY DOCUMENT, THE ORIGINAL MUST BE FILED WITH THE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS AND ONE COPY MUST BE SENT TO THE OTHER PARTY. BE SURE TO INDICATE ON THE ORIGINAL FILED WITH THE OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS THAT A COPY HAS BEEN SENT TO THE OTHER PARTY.

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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. For directions to the Office, click here. 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?
  • 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.

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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 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.

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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.

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5.  How Does The Administrative Hearings 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.

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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.

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7.  How do I know what rules to follow?
  • A copy of the Hearings Divisions rules may be obtained by clicking here.
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8.  How do I file a Petition for a Contested Case Hearing?
  • Petitions forms are available by clicking here or by contacting the Clerk's Office. Petitions are not required to be filed on this 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 SETOUT ABOVE. BE SURE TO VERIFY THE FILING TIME LIMIT FOR YOUR SPECIFIC CASE.

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

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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.

    The clerks 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. 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 web site.

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

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11.  How do I find out whom to serve the certificate of service on?
  • 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 their web site.

 

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12.  Can I fax or e-mail documents? Can I upload documents through the web site?
  • Registered e-filer's documents must be filed by uploading the document in either PDF format or Word format through the OAH e-filing web site. Individual document size is limited to 20MB. 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 e-mail by an attached file either in PDF format or a document compatible with or convertible to the most recent version of Word for Windows. 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.

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13.  Once I file my Petition what happens next?
  • 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 will notify the parties of the name of the Administrative Law Judge who has been assigned to the case, and will order the agency to submit the document containing the decision of the agency 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 will show the dates for the close of discovery, exchange of final witness list 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 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: "Will there be a transcript of the hearing and how do I get a copy?")

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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 on our web page by clicking here and in some law libraries and some public libraries.

  • 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.

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15.  What is a Mediated Settlement Conference?
  • 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 to assist you with this decision is available by clicking here or by contacting the Office of Administrative Hearings' Chief Paralegal. 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 mediated settlement conference. See, North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 26, Rule 03.207.

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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.

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17.  What is the benefit of my case being sent to either mediation or to a settlement conference?
  • Mediation or a settlement conference is a very successful method of resolving cases and saves 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.

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18.  My case was ordered to a Mediated Settlement Conference; 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 requesting the case be taken out of mediation. It will be within the discretion of the Judge whether to grant your motion.

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19.  If my case was not ordered to either a Mediated Settlement Conference 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.

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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 will 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 them. If you do reach a settlement, you need to let the Administrative Law Judge know the case has been settled and you would like to withdraw your petition.

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21.  How do I get an extension/continuance?
  • By filing a request in the form of 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.

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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.

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23.  Do I need to respond to a motion?
  • 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.

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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. You must make written requests to the other party in order to be assured of getting discovery.

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25.  What is Discovery?
  • 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.

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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 presented 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 to the other party involved in the case.

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27.  How Do I Subpoena Witnesses?
  • Subpoenas along with instructions may be obtained through our web page by clicking here or by contacting the Administrative Law Judge's administrative assistant. 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; by delivery to the person named on the subpoena or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.

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28.  Do I need an attorney?
  • No one is required by the Office of Administrative Hearings to have an attorney, unless you are a corporation. An individual may represent himself or herself, but a corporation must be represented by an attorney. However, when a party wishes to be represented by another, that representative must be a licensed attorney. 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. State agencies or other legal entities such as corporations are not individuals and therefore must be represented. 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.

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29.  Where will my hearing be held (venue)? 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 in which the petitioner resides. These eight regions are: Newton/Asheville; Charlotte; High Point; Fayetteville; Wilmington; Elizabeth City/Halifax; New Bern; and Raleigh.

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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 administrative assistant about scheduling a prehearing conference or telephone conference, involving you and the agency attorney. The Administrative Law Judge's administrative assistant can assist you with procedural and scheduling matters but no employee of the Office of Administrative Hearings can give you legal advice.

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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 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 argument. Closing argument is also 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 argument (briefs) and or proposed findings.

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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 administrative assistant. If you cannot reach the Administrative Law Judge's administrative assistant, contact the Clerk's office.

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33.  What is Burden of Proof?
  • Burden of Proof is the duty of a party to prove the facts in dispute between the parties involved in the case 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.

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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.

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35.  Can my hearing be conducted by telephone?
  • No. 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 evidence could be taken by telephone. The presiding Administrative Law Judge may conduct a motions hearing by telephone.

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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, prior to a full hearing based on the pleadings, or other portions of the record, or upon supporting affidavits.

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37.  What are affidavits?
  • 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.

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38.  What if I decide not to go through with the hearing?
  • You would need to notify the Administrative Law Judge in writing with a copy to the other party that you do not want to proceed with the hearing and that you want to withdraw your petition.

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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 will receive an instruction form at the hearing for ordering the transcript when a Hearing Assistant is used, or you can get the form by clicking here. Cost for the transcript will depend on the length of the hearing.

    If you can't afford a transcript, and your hearing was recorded by a Hearing Assistant, you may purchase copies of the tapes (or CD - Raleigh only). A form for ordering tapes or CDs is available by clicking here. Tape or CD costs are available by clicking here.

    To order a transcript, when a Court Reporter is used, you must make arrangements directly with the Court Reporter who recorded the hearing.

    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, which is requested by the parent. The form for ordering a transcript in a Special Education Contested Case is available by clicking here.

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40.  When will the Administrative Law Judge issue a decision in my case?
  • In some cases, the Administrative Law Judge may issue a decision immediately following your hearing. 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/or whether they will be submitting proposed findings. If the parties will be ordering a transcript and submitting proposed findings, the Administrative Law Judge will set a time as to when proposed findings must be filed after receipt of the transcript. The Administrative Law Judge's 45 days will then run from the filing of the proposed findings.

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41.  What if I disagree with the Administrative Law Judge's decision?
  • When the Administrative Law Judge issues a 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 decision with the agency or commission. This procedure will be set out at the end of the decision. The agency or commission must follow certain procedures when reviewing the judge's decision, and may reverse it only if it can demonstrate that the decision is clearly contrary to the preponderance of admissible evidence in the record. 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.

    If the Administrative Law Judge issues a final decision in your case, then you can ask for judicial review in Superior Court, except for special education cases in which the person seeking review must file a written notice of appeal with the North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction. These appeal procedures will be set out at the end of the decision.

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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 can call the Administrative Law Judge's administrative assistant.

    If you have not filed a petition or do not know the Administrative Law Judge's name, you can call and talk with someone in the Clerk's Office or to a paralegal.

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