At the Maryland state level, administrative hearings are extremely important and are used to decide appeals of administrative agency decisions. For example, these agency decisions might preclude someone from collecting insurance, result in a suspended driver’s license, or require someone to pay a fine. Generally, before appealing an agency’s decision to a court, a party has to exhaust all administrative remedies, including having an administrative hearing.
In Maryland, administrative hearings are presided over by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and are commonly held by the Office of Administrative Hearings, an executive branch agency. (Almost half of the administrative hearings are related to issues concerning the Motor Vehicle Administration.) Depending on the matter, after the hearing, the ALJ either makes a decision on the appeal or makes a recommendation to the agency with jurisdiction over the matter. The agency can choose whether it follows the recommendation.
Once all administrative remedies are exhausted, a party typically has 30 days to appeal to a court an agency decision by filing a petition for judicial review. (Filing a petition for agency review does not automatically stop an agency action. The petitioner has to file a motion with the court to delay the agency action until the court has ruled on the matter.) An appeal can be filed in any county where a party resides or has a principal place of business. In order to overturn an ALJ’s decision, a reviewing court needs to find that the ALJ’s opinion was arbitrary. In most instances in Maryland, courts review the administrative decision in the light most favorable to the administrative court. A court will not reverse an ALJ’s decision simply because it would have ruled differently. The ALJ’s decision will stand as long as it is legally sufficient and reasonable given the evidence. (In worker’s compensation cases, the reviewing court will hear the case de novo, meaning the court will issue a new decision and not rely on the Administrative Law Judge’s decision.) If a party wants to admit additional evidence at the circuit court level, they must provide the court with a good reason why the evidence was not offered at the administrative level. At the conclusion of the case, the reviewing court can then remand the decision for additional consideration by the ALJ or uphold or reverse the ALJ’s decision.