When does it make sense to hire an attorney to represent you in an administrative hearing?
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UPDATED: Mar 18, 2021
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The court system is difficult enough, but navigating the government’s administrative agencies can be nearly impossible at times. While some administrative agencies such as the Veteran’s Affair’s Office have straightforward forms and timely responses, others, like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), require inside connections in order to effectively pass anything through. For those more difficult agencies, an attorney should at least be consulted if not retained.
Anyone who has ever held a government job knows about the countless administrative agencies that complaints and investigations must go through. For instance, a public school teacher who is wrongfully dismissed must first go through the EEOC to have his/her complaint approved for suing. In the state of Arizona, they must then go through mediation and settlement sessions with the specific school and board of education. Finally, once those avenues are passed, the teacher can bring their suit to state or federal court. Between the time required for these investigations and the intimidation that the state’s attorneys can bring to the bargaining table, it is vital that you have an attorney to assist you in your case.
When dealing with financial or business related administrative agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a Corporation Commission, Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), or the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), and your initial filings or requests were rejected or penalties assigned, an attorney is necessary for the appeal. An attorney will draft your appeal in a light that is most favorable to your side and present prior precedent to make compelling arguments.
The administrative agency appeals hearings are typically before three to five agents of that agency. These agents will pose questions about the appeal filing. It is vital that your appeal filing be well drafted. The attorney will then represent you at the hearing and answer all questions.
If an administrative agency has brought charges against you for violating one of their rules, it is vital that you hire an attorney for both the initial hearing and any subsequent appeals. Although administrative agencies are not Congress, their rules are still considered binding law. Violating their laws can result in fines and imprisonment. Whether it is the IRS charging you with tax evasion, the EPA filing illegal dumping charges, or the state school board filing misappropriation charges, you need an attorney. An attorney will advise and protect you from self-incrimination (saying the wrong thing) and will draft and argue your case in the best light for you. If you are guilty of the crime, your attorney will reach the most favorable plea bargain to reduce the penalties.
Overall, most administrative agency hearings will not require an attorney, but when something goes wrong or criminal charges are being launched, it is time to run to an attorney.