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Administrative Appeals: How to Proceed

The state agency issues a letter containing the final order giving specific instructions for proceeding with the appeal, if you choose. The Northwest Justice Project has written two guides for appealing decisions. One is for appeal of orders from the Employment Security Department for denial of unemployment benefits and the other is for appeal of orders from the Department of Social and Health Services for denial of public assistance benefits. The publication How to Petition for Superior Court Review talks about how to proceed after the fair hearing has been held.

These guides provide forms and instructions, including the Petition for Review, which may be used for filing in Superior Court. The guides discuss what you can expect in the process. In addition, the Northwest Justice Project has written “How to Represent Yourself at an Unemployment Compensation Benefits Hearing.” Although this publication is written specifically for unemployment compensation benefits hearing, much of the advice applies to other agency hearings as well.

The amount of information published on agency websites varies from agency to agency. Often information relating to the appeal process is contained in a section of Frequently Asked Questions. Below is a list agencies who commonly issue orders and their web sites discussing the appeals process.

Administrative Appeals: Which Laws Govern?

The Administrative Procedures Act, RCW 34.05, governs appeals of state administrative agencies. Sections 510 through 598 discuss Judicial Review and Civil Enforcement. These sections of the state code cover where the Petition for Review is filed, the time for filing, the contents of the petition, and other procedural information.

However, the Administrative Procedures Act does not cover appeals from a local government or municipal corporation. (See Washington Administrative Law Practice Manual §14.01.)

Note: Decisions or orders from local governmental agencies or municipal corporations can be appealed to the Superior Court. The Administrative Procedure Act does not apply to these entities. If your decision is from one of these non-APA agencies, please proceed to the next section “What if My Appeal is Not Governed by the APA?”


Administrative Appeal: What is it?

State agencies issue decisions or orders in response to claims filed by individuals. Examples of claims decided by state agencies are worker’s compensation claims, unemployment benefits claims, and the restoration of driver’s licenses. If you disagree with the decision made by the agency in response to your claim at the initial administrative hearing, you may appeal that decision within the agency. Each agency designates its own process for filing an appeal within the agency. This means that each agency may have slightly different procedures for appealing an agency decision. If you disagree with the result of the appeal within the agency, you may then appeal the decision to a state Superior Court.

What if My Appeal is Not Governed by the APA?

Note: This document is a summary of important points found in Chapter 14 of the Washington Administrative Law Practice Manual (WALPM). It is not comprehensive; the text needs to be consulted for applicability to specific situations.

What is a Non-APA Administrative Appeal?

Decisions or orders from local governmental agencies or municipal corporations can be appealed to the Superior Court. The Administrative Procedure Act does not apply to these entities.

What Laws Govern Non-APA Administrative Appeals?

The three avenues for judicial review of administrative decisions are:

  • Direct appeal authorized by statute. You should consult the specific statute governing the appropriate local government action in question. For example, the Land Use Petition Act covers judicial review of land use decisions. RCW 36.70C.
  • Statutory writ of certiorari. RCW 7.16. Local government action is reviewable by statutory writ of certiorari.
  • Inherent authority of the courts: The Constitutional writ of review. Article IV, Section 6 of the Washington State Constitution states that the Superior Court has inherent power to review administrative decisions for illegal or manifestly arbitrary acts.

How to Proceed:

  • Exhaust all procedural requirements specified in applicable statutes or ordinances.
  • Follow the standard form for application for judicial review consistent with RCW 7.16. This section of the RCW covers Certiorari, Mandamus, and Prohibition.
  • Examine Washington Administrative Law Practice Manual (WALPM) §14.05 for a discussion of the form of the writ, production of the record, and briefing.
  • Review the sample petition for a writ of mandamus in Washington Criminal Practice in Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, Vol. 2, Form 63 & Form 66.

Environmental Hearings Office

The mission of the Environmental Hearings Office (EHO), which is comprised of two independent environmental boards, is to conduct fair and impartial hearings and issue clear and well-reasoned decisions, provide expeditious and efficient resolution of environmental appeals through hearings and alternative dispute resolution processes, foster a consistent statewide interpretation of Washington’s environmental laws in agency decision making and appeals, and assist parties in understanding the hearing process to ensure meaningful and enhanced access to justice. The website contains EHO decisions back to 1970, as well as sample forms for conducting an administrative appeal of an EHO decision.


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