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Fair Hearing Bank

An Excellent Resource for Advocates

August 13, 2009

Author:  Samantha Howell[1]

The Fair Hearing Bank, part of the Online Resource Center maintained by Western New York Law Center and Empire Justice Center, is a helpful destination for advocates seeking to stay informed of the most recent fair hearings concerning public benefits in New York State. Advocates can search for and read summaries of fair hearings, dating back more than twenty-five years. Each summary   includes the date of the hearing, the county in which it was held, the presiding Administrative Law Judge, and the Appellant’s Representative. Additionally, relevant statutes and regulations are provided for earsy reference. If available, relevant Administrative Directive Memos (ADMs),  Local Commissioners Memorandums (LCMs), and General Information  System Messages (GISs) – which are regularly issued by the Office for  Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) – are also provided. Finally, memorandums of law have recently been uploaded – when available – in order to assist advocates to better  understand the arguments presented to the administrative law judge.

Example: Abby, an advocate, needs to help her client whose public assistance (PA) and food stamp (FS) benefits were discontinued while awaiting a response regarding her unemployment income benefits. If Abby goes to the Fair Hearing Bank and searches using the term “unemployment benefits,” she will come across a fair hearing decision in which the ALJ held that, pursuant to food stamp regulations, the Appellant was not required to pursue a resource as a condition of eligibility (# 5221513H). If Abby thinks this case will help her advocate for her client, she can pull up the full decision and also find references to relevant statutes and regulations.

In addition to providing recent fair hearing decisions, the fair hearing bank also identifies particularly important cases by labeling them as “Fair Hearings of the Month.” When a case is identified as such, a brief, bolded, summary will appear before the general case summary, alerting the reader to the most important aspects of the holding or findings.

Example: A recent Fair Hearing of the Month involved a “man in the  house” case. The ALJ reversed the Agency’s determination discontinuing the Appellant’s benefits and held that the Agency must provide direct evidence and collateral sources in addition to U.S. Postal Service check to meet burden of proof.  Circumstantial evidence is not enough. (#5218145Q)

Use of the Fair Hearing Bank is also beneficial for advocates as they go before a specific ALJ for the first time or confront a benefits issue for the first time. Searches can provide insight as to how ALJs have decided similar cases, as well as what issues may be relevant at the hearing, allowing the advocate to prepare more fully for hearings. Access to prior fair hearing decisions is especially helpful for advocates due to a concept referred to as administrative stare decisis.  rticulated in the landmark case Matter of Charles A. Field Delivery Service, Inc., 66 N.Y.2d 516 (1985), this concept provides that “when an agency determines to alter its prior stated course it must set forth its reasons for doing so.” Id. at 520.  Having prior Agency decisions at the ready strengthens the advocate’s case and provides a more compelling argument for the administrative law judge.
The Fair Hearing Bank can be located through the Online Resource Center, which can be accessed through both Empire Justice Center and Western

New York Law Center homepages, or by copying and pasting the following  link:  Please note:  Users must register to access the Fair Hearing Bank; however, registration is free.


1  Samantha Howell is a 3L at Albany Law School.  She has been a legal intern at the Empire Justice Center since June 2008.  Samantha manages the Fair Hearing Bank and works on immigration and benefits issues.


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