The office of administrative hearings is an independent agency made up of independent judges which was formed to preside over state administrative law proceedings. It is a quasi-judicial agency that ensures administrative decisions are established on fair and impartial grounds. This agency was formed to ensure that issues arising from the executive, judicial and legislative arms of the government do not conflict in terms of administrative processes. The central panel was adopted by the Office of Administrative hearings to hear and decide on cases within its jurisdiction.
The office of administrative hearings possesses both concurrent and exclusive jurisdiction. These two jurisdictions are different in terms of lawsuits and decisions/precedents established thereof in respect to the law. Concurrent jurisdiction basically refers to the authority granted to several courts to hear and establish decisions for cases with the same subject matter. In this regard, the state and federal courts have the authority to embrace concurrent jurisdiction on particular lawsuits involving administrative functions of the government. Exclusive jurisdiction on the other hand refers to the authority bestowed upon one court to make decisions regarding particular lawsuits. The office of administrative hearings was established on this premise to hear and decide on administrative cases. However, there is an extension to this obligation that confers the office of administrative hearings the authority to hear and preside over contested cases involving state agencies. This is an overlap in the judicial system in the office of administrative hearings because it goes beyond the initial requisites and function of this office given the jurisdictions for which it is supposed to operate.
In regards to exclusive jurisdiction as a function of the office of administrative hearings, the agency is conferred the authority to decide on such contested cases as regards public employment, alcoholic beverage control environmental permitting and penalties, competitive bidding procedures and special education among others. Article 3 the law requires the party involved in the case to enter into settlement negotiations with the agency. G.S. 150B-22 is specific on the procedures of engagement public policy on informal steps to dispute resolution. However, the law requires the parties involved in a dispute to engage in negotiations and attempt to resolve their differences prior to the commencement of the case before the office of administrative hearings. When this attempt fails, one of the parties has the right to file a petition on the same to the office of administrative hearings seeking its involvement on the same. From this point the office applies alternative dispute resolution methods to solve the case (Julian, 1995).
The difference between concurrent and exclusive jurisdiction lies on the mandates for which the law is supposed to serve and legal implications that arise from either jurisdiction. It is important to understand that concurrent jurisdiction allows for advancements and development of agency expertise unlike exclusive jurisdiction that limits the dimensions of legal practice to predetermined cases. Exclusive jurisdiction suppositions undermine the fundamental goals for which such presumptions are supposed to serve. Take an example of a statute that allows for two different interpretations. This is likely to result to a constitutional question and courts by the same token are likely to orient themselves towards the interpretation that does not result to the constitutional question.
Whereas concurrent jurisdiction may result to constitutional questions that may delay the justice system, exclusive jurisdiction may be critical in cases that require expedited hearings. The essence of establishing the office of administrative hearings was basically to enhance the process of justice within the administrative sector. The specialization into administrative cases was important for the state agencies and solving cases that were sensitive to the state agencies and their governance systems. Having one court to determine such cases would not only expedite the judicial processes but also formulate policies special policies and legal doctrines to control the behavior and engagements of state agencies (Jacob, 2007).
Article 3A of provides for concurrent jurisdiction within the office of administrative hearings and this is primarily to professional licensing boards. Parties are allowed to file petitions to the agency and attend to hearings on the same before the central panel. Decisions made by this panel are supposed to be binding to the parties involved. The judicial system in North Carolina is has a defined initiation point and this is because the office of administrative hearings is the only central panel that is exclusively petition-generated. The commencement point of any contested case has a definite beginning which makes the Office of Administrative Hearing a very important legal agency.
However, there has been the need for expedited legal hearing procedures due to the complexity of certain contested cases before the office of administrative hearings. The office in reaction has promulgated various rules to that effect to step up the requisites and functions of the agency.
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