In Maryland, there are a number of Administrative Agencies that have powers like the courts but are not part of the Maryland Judiciary. Administrative agencies include "any agency, board, department, district, commission, authority, commissioner, official, the Maryland Tax court, or other unit of the State or of a political subdivision of the State." Read the Rules: MD Rule 7-201 Some Maryland Administrative agencies include the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Human Resources, the Maryland Insurance Administration, the Department of Environment, and the Motor Vehicle Administration. Each agency has authority granted to them by the Maryland legislature for the area it oversees. Some of the powers that administrative agencies have include the power to issue licenses or permits, or to create regulations for businesses.
Under Maryland law, any party who is affected by an agency decision can petition for an administrative hearing. Many of the administrative hearings are conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”). OAH conducts hearings for over 30 agencies and 200 programs. Administrative Law Judges (“ALJ”) conduct OAH hearings. ALJs are lawyers appointed by the Chief Administrative Law Judge and are not employees of the agency. The rules of procedure at an OAH hearing are in Title 28 of the Code of Maryland Regulations. At the hearing, the ALJ makes a written recommendation based upon the evidence and argument presented. The agency may then choose whether or not they want to follow the ALJ’s recommendation.
Usually, parties must bring all issues and try every procedure that the agency has before filing for review in the Circuit Court. This is known as "exhaustion of remedies." The procedure for seeking review of the ALJ's decision will be included in the decision. In a few instances, a party may petition for review from the Circuit Court before exhausting all of the possible remedies. Parties may petition to the Circuit Court if there is a nonfinal order by the agency that:
- Determines rights and liabilities;
- Has immediate legal consequences; and
- Waiting for a final order would result in irreparable harm.
Depending on why the Circuit Court is reviewing the Agency’s decision (issue being appealed), a court reviewing an administrative agency's decision will usually look at the decision in "the light most favorable to the agency." The court cannot reverse the decision of an agency just because it would have decided differently. The court will affirm the agency’s decision as long as it is considered to be legal and reasonable given the evidence. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222, MD Rule 7-201 – 7-209
Filing a petition for judicial review
A person seeking review of an agency decision is called the “petitioner” or “appellant.” Unless another rule or law gives the petitioner more time, he must file his petition within 30 days after the date of the agency action, the date the agency sent notice of the agency action, or the date notice of the agency action was received, whichever is latest. Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-203
Petitions for judicial review can be filed in the Circuit Court for the county where any party resides or has principal place of business. Advance filing fees must be paid at the time of filing, unless the case is an appeal from the State Workers' Compensation Commission or an appeal, by an individual claiming benefits, from a decision of the Board of Appeals of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation or the petitioner has gotten the fees waived. The court may waive, or put aside, the filing fee for people who cannot pay.
The caption, or beginning, of the petition must have the following format:
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR ________________
PETITION OF ____________________________
CIVIL ACTION No.________
The petition must explicitly "request judicial review," identify the action for which review is sought, and state whether the person seeking review was a party to the proceeding. Nothing else is required in the petition. A duplicate copy of the petition must be given to the clerk of the court to be sent to the agency.
Workers Compensation Commission
If you are filing for review of a decision from the Workers' Compensation Commission, then a copy of the petition must be served by the petitioner by first class mail to the Commission and all other parties of record in the agency proceeding. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222(c), MD Rule 7-202, Md. Rule 7-203, MD Ct. & Jud. Proc. § 7-201
Stopping Agency Action Before Judicial Review
Filing a petition does not automatically stop the action of the agency. Petitioner has to file a motion with the court to prevent the action of the agency until the court has ruled on the appeal. The court will tell the agency about the motion and hold a hearing before ruling on the motion. The court may require the petitioner to purchase a bond while awaiting the outcome of the appeal. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222(e), MD Rule 7-205
Record of the Administrative Hearing Sent to the Circuit Court
After receiving notice of the petition for judicial review, the agency will have 60 days to transmit a transcript of the agency proceeding to the court. The agency may request up to 60 extra days to get the record to the court. The petitioner will need to request and pay the initial cost for a transcript of the hearing. If the petitioner fails to pay for or provide a transcript to the reviewing court, the appeal may be DISMISSED. The petitioner can file a certification of the costs with the agency and the court may award the costs of producing the transcript to the petitioner if he wins the appeal.
Parties can avoid the cost of producing a transcript by agreeing to a statement of facts. The court encourages parties to agree to a statement describing the facts that are important to the questions the court is being asked to review. The clerk of the court will send notice to all parties after receiving the record. Read the Law: MD Rule 7-206, MD Rule 2-603
Within 30 days after notice of receiving the record is sent out, the petitioner must file a legal memorandum outlining the basis for his appeal. The memorandum must include:
- A statement of the facts surrounding the case,
- The questions for review by the court, and
- An “argument,” or reason why the court should rule against the agency, on each question.
The argument section should include references to the record of the original proceeding. The argument should rely upon good legal reasoning and refer to case and statutory law. After the memorandum is filed, the agency and any other responding party will have 30 days to file responding memoranda.
Workers' Compensation Commission
Petitioners do not need to file memoranda in support of a petition for review of a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commission because the Circuit Court reviews the evidence de novo. De novo means "anew;" the court will take a fresh look at the evidence (including the facts and the law). Read the Law: MD Rule 7-207(b)
The court will schedule a hearing to review the case no earlier than 90 days after the court received the record, unless all parties agree not to have a hearing. Normally, the court will make a decision based just on the record, but a party may make a motion to present additional evidence at the hearing. Hearings are held without a jury, unless the hearing is an appeal of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission. It is very rare for the court to take any new evidence unless the petitioner has proof showing that the administrative officer did not conduct the hearing fairly.
Workers' Compensation Commission
After the hearing, the court may
- Send the case back to the agency;
- Affirm the agency’s decision;
- Modify the agency’s order; or
- Reverse the agency’s order.
These books can be found at many Circuit Court Libraries. Many contain sample documents useful in filing a petition. There are no forms for petitioning for judicial review of an administrative decision. Any potential petitioner who is not clear on what to do should consult an attorney. Circuit Court Clerks cannot give legal advice. A Clerk will not review a petition and acceptance by a Clerk does not mean that the petition meets all of the requirements of the law.
Maryland Civil Procedure Forms, Title 7: Chapter 200, Robert D. Klein.
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, Chapter 2, Jack L. B. Gohn.
Principles and Practice of Maryland Administrative Law, Arnold Rochvarg.
Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland, § 7.5, Writ of Mandamus, Paul Mark Sandler & James K. Archibald.
Judicial Review of Agency Decisions, Alan M. Wilner.
Maryland Digest 2d., Administrative Law §§ 651-821.
Maryland Law Encyclopedia, Administrative Law and Procedure §§ 64-82.
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law, Section VIII, F (2) - Petition for Judicial Review
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, G – Mandamus/Generally
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, H – Administrative Mandamus
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA - Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, I – Conventional Mandamus