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Copyright (c) 2004 Roger Williams University Law Review
Roger Williams University Law Review

NOTE AND COMMENT: Administrative Injustice: The Rhode Island State Agency Hearing Process and a Recommendation for Change

Spring, 2004

9 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 735


Daniel W. Majcher 174


In Rhode Island government administration, each state agency is responsible for its own dispute resolution hearing procedure. Agency control over this procedure creates several issues and conflicts discussed throughout this Comment. In response to these issues, Rhode Island should create a Central Hearing Agency (CHA). 1 This CHA would have the sole responsibility of providing independent hearing officers to adjudicate administrative disputes between state agencies and citizens. 2

Similar to a judge, a hearing officer 3 evaluates written evidence, listens to testimony, and, when necessary, makes factual determinations. 4 A hearing officer's decision may involve the revocation of a license or the imposition of a substantial fine, and is likely to have a significant impact on an individual or entity involved in an administrative dispute. 5 Therefore, like a judge, a hearing officer should be an independent party, free from underlying bias and influences.

Rhode Island's current procedure closely resembles the traditional judicial process, 6 absent one key element: a neutral third-party decision-maker. The hearing officer, appointed to adjudicate agency cases, is an employee of that same agency. 7 Additionally, the agency's director reviews, and may modify or reject, the decision of the subordinate hearing officer. This employment relationship and director review potentially creates an underlying bias, thereby tainting the fairness of the process. 8 Even if a fair hearing is provided, the current process generates the appearance of impropriety in the eyes of the legal community and of Rhode Island citizens. 9 The result ...
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