August 20, 2014

New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL)

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

The New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL) is an independent agency in, but not of, the Department of Treasury.  OAL employs full time Administrative Law Judges who hear contested cases from New Jersey Administrative Agencies.  The judge’s decision is preliminary; the agency head makes the final decision.

The New Jersey Office of Adminstrative Law (OAL) hears thousands of cases each year.  Each case is a contested case that arises when someone disagrees with a decision that one of the many administrative agencies has made.  Administrative agencies are parts of the state government who are empowered to make certain decisions on matters within their jurisdiction.  When someone disagrees with the decision of an administrative agency, they have the right to a hearing in the OAL.

To exercise that right to an OAL hearing, a litigant who disagrees with the agency decision must notify that agency in writing.  That written notice starts the administrative appeal process.  (Consult other articles in this section to learn about the administrative process.)

OAL courts are different from other courts.  OAL maintains three locations in New Jersey - Atlantic City, Trenton and Newark.  OAL will assign a contested case to one of the three offices base upon where the litigant resides and where the dispute arose.  OAL courts are in office buildings, not traditional courthouses.  The OAL courts are not public.  In most instances, to gain access to the courtroom, one must sign in with a security guard.  Pedestrians or interested members of the public do not have access to an OAL courtroom.  The news media do not wander in and out of OAL courtrooms.

Administrative Law Judges are typically the only official in the courtroom.  There is no sheriff’s officer and no bailiff.  There is no court reporter and no court clerk.  The proceedings are recorded electronically in case a need arises for a transcript of the hearing.

The state agencies are typically represented by an attorney, and in many cases that attorney is a Deputy Attorney General.  The litigant also has the right to be represented by an attorney.  The OAL does not provide a litigant with an attorney.  If he choses to have counsel, the individual litigant is responsible for hiring his or her own attorney. 

If you have an administrative law case, and have questions about the OAL or the process, then you should contact an attorney who is familiar with the OAL process.

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If you need legal help in matters similar to those described in this document, call Howes & Howes for a prompt, confidential consultation.

Howes & Howes

26 Anderson Street

Raritan, New Jersey 08869

Telephone: (908)704-0037

email: [email protected]