Guide to the Public Assistance and Training Services Appeals Process

Structure of the Hearing

A public assistance appeal hearing is conducted by an impartial administrative law judge. Anyone with an interest in the outcome of the hearing is a "party" to the hearing. Parties to the hearing are typically the claimant and Department.

The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether public assistance should be allowed or denied. The hearing is a fact-finding meeting, which is recorded. It is the judge's job to see to it that all parties receive a fair hearing. A fair hearing means that the judge will explain the procedures of the hearing and allow all parties to present their relevant information.

At the beginning of the hearing, the judge will explain the issues to be considered during the hearing and the order of testimony. The judge will also answer any questions the parties may have about the appeals process.

The judge will then have the Department's representative testify to the action taken on the case and why. The judge will ask questions about the action taken. The judge will then allow the claimant to ask the Department representative questions.

Next, the judge will take the claimant’s testimony concerning why the claimant disagrees with the action taken by the Department. The judge may ask additional questions to gather all relevant information concerning the claimant's circumstances. The judge will then allow the Department representative to ask the claimant questions.

The judge will close the hearing when neither side has any additional relevant information to present. Most hearings last between 30 and 60 minutes.

The judge will make an independent and impartial written decision based only on the evidence presented at the hearing. This evidence includes the sworn testimony of witnesses who participate in the hearing and documents submitted to the parties and the judge prior to the hearing. The decision will affirm, modify, or reverse the initial Department decision. 

See DHRM Rule R477-101 for information on administrative law judge performance standards.

Preparation for the Hearing

The hearing before the judge is your chance to present everything related to the issue(s) being appealed. A record of the hearing will be made, and the judge may consider only the evidence discussed at this hearing.

You should start preparing for the hearing as soon as you file your appeal. Know the issue(s) involved. Obtain documents that help prove your facts and provide them to the judge and Department representative. Also, have witnesses available to testify concerning facts that support your side of the case.

To help you remember what you want say at the hearing, prepare a simple chart or written summary with the key information you want to present. Prepare all evidence and be ready to explain what the documents represent. Do not rely solely upon written statements of witnesses as part of your evidence presentation.

Facts, not conclusions, are the basis of a good case. Be prepared to answer the questions of who, what, when, where, and why. Simply stating that the Department’s action is unfair is a conclusion and not very helpful at the hearing.

Telephone Hearings

Your appeal hearing will be scheduled to take place by telephone. The "Notice of Public Assistance Telephonic Hearing" gives the date and time of the telephone hearing and explains the procedure for participation in the hearing. The Notice of Hearing requires you to call the Appeals Unit as soon as possible and supply a telephone number where you can be contacted for the hearing. Be sure to follow this instruction even if you believe the Department should have your telephone number.

Telephone hearings allow the parties to participate without the expense, time, or possible hazard of traveling to a central hearing site. The judge conducts the hearing in the same manner as an in-person hearing, using the same question and answer format.

Before the hearing starts, you should make sure your telephone is in working order, keep the line clear, and be ready to receive the call from the judge. If you have not been called by ten minutes after the time the hearing was scheduled to start, call the Appeals Unit at 801-526-9300 or 877-800-0671.

You should plan to appear by telephone in a location free from background noise so you will be clearly heard. If the judge and/or other party cannot hear you or your witness clearly, the judge has the right to stop the hearing and schedule it for another time.

Use of cellular telephones and cordless telephones is discouraged due to dropped calls. The judge does not conduct hearings with parties or witnesses who are operating a motor vehicle. Pay telephones should not be used unless absolutely necessary. If you must use a pay telephone, be sure it is one that will accept incoming calls and is free of traffic and other background noises. If using a speaker telephone, make sure the area is free of all background noise, and make arrangements so that each of the witnesses testifying is in close proximity to the telephone when speaking.

If you have witnesses testify on your behalf, make sure they are either participating at the same location or that you have a valid phone number for them that the judge can use to connect them to the telephone conference call.

If you do not have access to a telephone, contact the Appeals Unit immediately to make arrangements for access to a telephone. Arrangements can be made to provide telephone access at a Department office near you if requested well in advance of the hearing.

Accommodations

If you need special services, such as accommodations for disabilities or an interpreter, contact the Appeals Unit prior to the hearing so that necessary arrangements are in place at the time the hearing begins.

Hearings are conducted in English. If your knowledge of English is limited, if you are reading this information on behalf of a person whose knowledge of English is limited, or you are hearing or speech impaired, contact the Appeals Unit immediately to request accommodations. The Appeals Unit can arrange to have an interpreter or other forms of assistance available for the hearing. There is no charge for this service.

Attorney or Other Representative

You have the right to have a representative participate at the hearing. The representative may or may not be a lawyer. Historically, most parties do not have a representative at their appeal. The judge is an active participant in the hearing and will question both parties to gather the relevant facts of the case. However, if the facts in your case are complicated, there are many legal issues involved, or you do not feel comfortable doing it alone, you are allowed to have someone help you prepare and present your case.

If you choose to hire a representative, contact the representative as soon as you submit your appeal to allow sufficient time to prepare for the hearing. It is your responsibility to notify the representative of the time and place of the hearing and to pay any fees charged for such representation. Individuals with no or low income may qualify for help from Utah Legal Services. Its telephone numbers are: Salt Lake - 801-328-8891; or toll free at 800-662-4245. You may also receive a referral for legal advice from the Utah State Lawyer Referral Service at 801-531-9075.

Witnesses and Subpoenas

Before you ask witnesses to participate at the hearing, be sure you need their testimony. The best witnesses are those who were personally involved in the events and circumstances which are being explained to the judge. When a witness testifies about what someone else said happened, this is "hearsay" and is not very helpful in making a decision.

"Hearsay" is any statement, whether oral or in writing, made by a person who does not personally appear to testify under oath in the hearing. Hearsay evidence carries less weight and credibility than firsthand testimony, especially if the other party disputes that information. Whenever possible, you should have the witnesses who made the statement and/or observations available to testify during the hearing.

If you decide you need witnesses to testify, contact them immediately to arrange for their appearance. Be sure they are available to participate in the hearing. If they are not available to participate, you may be able to postpone the hearing. If the witnesses are going to participate by telephone at another location, have the telephone number available for the judge.

Essential witnesses refusing to participate in the hearing or provide essential documents may be ordered to do so by subpoena. A subpoena is a paper signed by the judge which orders the person to participate in the hearing and/or provide records. You must ask the judge to issue a subpoena at least three days prior to the day of the hearing. You must provide the mailing address of the person you want to subpoena. If a fax number is available, provide that also. Have this information when you call the judge to request a subpoena.

If you are not sure whether you need a witness, call the Appeals Unit.

Documents and Other Evidence

The Department may send documents or other evidence it will rely upon in the hearing to you and the judge. Read them carefully and have them available during the hearing.

If you want the judge to consider other documents, you must mail or fax a copy of these papers immediately to the judge and to the Department representative. The documents must be received with adequate time to be reviewed before the hearing. Failure to provide the other party with the documentation submitted to the judge may result in your documentation not being considered. The judge does not have the responsibility to send copies of your documents to the Department for you.

Examples of written evidence you might need to present include: letters, check stubs, medical reports, job search logs, childcare records, etc. For the written evidence to be considered as evidence, you must be able to explain who prepared the document or paper, what its purpose is, and how it helps your case. If you need records that are not available to you, call the Appeals Unit about getting an order or subpoena for the documents.

If it is necessary to submit numerous documents, prepare a summary of the information necessary to prove your point. Copy and submit only those pages of a handbook, manual, rules, or policy book, etc., which contain the necessary information.

Postponing or Rescheduling a Hearing

If you cannot attend the hearing on the scheduled date and time, call the Appeals Unit immediately at 801-526-9300 or toll free at 877-800-0671 to request the hearing be rescheduled. You may have to give specific details as to the reason rescheduling is necessary.

Missing the Hearing

If you fail to participate at the time of the scheduled hearing, you must submit a request for the hearing to be reopened within ten (10) days after the date the judge's default decision is issued. You will have to show cause why you did not attend. If your request is filed more than ten (10) days after the judge's decision is issued, you must also show cause for filing a late request for a new hearing date. You can call the Appeals Unit at 801-526-9300 or 877-800-0671 to submit a verbal reopening request or you can submit a written reopening request by mail to: PO BOX 45244, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84145-0244 or by FAX to 801-526-9242.

Withdrawal

You can withdraw your appeal if you decide you do not want or need to appeal the Department’s decision. Notify the Appeals Unit as soon as possible if you decide to withdraw your appeal. You can call the Appeals Unit at 801-526-9300 or 877-800-0671 to verbally request the appeal by withdrawn.

Questions about the Appeal Hearing Process

For purposes of preserving a bias-free hearing and decision, the parties are not allowed to individually speak with the judge assigned to the case about the facts of the case either before or after the hearing. The only exception would be to discuss procedural matters that need to be resolved before the hearing. Under no circumstances is the judge allowed to give legal advice to either party.

If you have questions or concerns about your hearing, contact the Appeals Unit at:

TELEPHONE: 801-526-9300 or toll-free 877-800-0671

FAX: 801-526-9242

MAILING ADDRESS:

UTAH WORKFORCE SERVICES - APPEALS UNIT
P.O. Box 45244
140 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84145-0244

Hearing Decisions and Further Appeal Rights

In most cases, a decision will be sent to the parties within 30 days after the hearing. The decision will give the facts of the case, the law related to the case, and the reasons for the judge's decision. You have the right to appeal the decision if the judge does not rule in your favor. The instructions for filing a further appeal are contained in the decision issued by the judge. Any further appeal request must be received within 30 calendar days of the date the judge's decision was issued. You must submit your appeal in writing, either by letter or by fax. No specific form is required. You must indicate that you want to appeal the judge's decision. You should list your name and the appeal case number. You must sign the appeal.

Tips for the Hearing

Before the hearing, write down what you want to tell the judge. List the points you want to cover at the hearing. Use this list to prepare your case. Check it at the hearing to make sure you cover everything.

Be sure to talk to your witnesses as soon as possible. Find out what they know that can help your case and find out if they are willing to testify. If they are reluctant or afraid, call the Appeals Unit right away and explain the problem. Do not wait until the hearing.

Write down questions that you want to ask witnesses. Make sure your questions are short and to the point. Ask only one question at a time. Take notes when listening to witnesses so that you remember the questions you wish to ask them.

Get your written evidence together as soon as possible, and make sure the judge and the Department representative have copies prior to the hearing.

Be prompt. Be at the phone number you provided for the hearing at least ten minutes before the hearing. Hearing time is limited.

When you testify, tell the truth. Witnesses testify under oath and are subject to the perjury laws of the state of Utah. Do not guess. If you do not know the answer or understand the question, just say you do not know the answer or you do not understand the question. Do not ask other witnesses for the answer.

Do not repeat information that you or someone else has already explained or described at length.

Do not interrupt when someone else is speaking. Do not answer for a witness who has forgotten a date or event. You can explain your side of the story when it is your turn to testify.

Make sure your testimony and evidence relates to the issues on appeal.

Do not argue or get angry during the hearing. You will do a much better job presenting your case if you stay calm.

If you are not sure what to do during the hearing, ask the judge. If you believe something important is being left out, be sure to tell the judge during the hearing.