About The Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”)
The Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) was established in 1979 to create a central independent agency to conduct administrative hearings, thus promoting due process, expediting the just conclusion of contested cases, and improving the quality of administrative justice. The Office of Administrative Law employs a corps of administrative law judges (“ALJ”) who hear contested cases for state agencies and issue initial decisions.
The Office of Administrative Law is an Executive Branch agency. While located in but not of the Department of Treasury, it is independent of supervision or control by the Department of Treasury. The Director and Chief and Administrative Law Judge presides over the office and reports directly to the Governor.
Hearing requests are filed with the state agency having jurisdiction over the issue which determines whether to grant the hearing request. Upon deciding that a matter should be heard as a contested case, the agency transmits the case to the Office of Administrative Law. Litigants cannot directly file a hearing request at the OAL.* The Office of Administrative Law hears cases for most state agencies, but it does not hear cases involving the State Board of Parole, the Division of Workers Compensation, the Division of Tax Appeals, the Public Employment Relations Commission, or Department of Labor Unemployment Compensation cases.
Hearings are conducted by an administrative law judge according to the procedures established by statute and by the rules of the OAL. The rules can be found at N.J.A.C. 1:1-1
et. seq., and are linked to this website. The ALJ provides a neutral forum where the evidence of all parties is presented.
Administrative law judges are full time in that position and do not hold other employment. An ALJ is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the New Jersey Senate, initially for a one-year term. After the one-year term, the Governor may reappoint the individual to a four-year term. Subsequently, reappointment is to terms of five-years and requires both the Governor’s nomination and Senate confirmation.
In most cases, at the conclusion of the hearing the ALJ prepares an initial decision that is sent to the agency head. The initial decision may be affirmed, modified, or rejected by the agency head within forty-five days of receipt of the initial decision. These time frames can be extended for good cause. Any change or modification to the initial decision must be explained in writing by the agency head and must specify in clear and sufficient detail the reason for the change or modification and the factual basis in the record for such change. If the agency head does not issue a final decision within forty-five days, unless the time frame has been extended, the initial decision becomes the final decision. In certain cases, such as special education, the decision of the administrative law judge is the final decision.
The Office of Administrative Law also implements the provision of the Administrative Procedure Act concerning rulemaking, as explained on this website under Division of Rules.
*The single exception to this rule are hearings involving the termination of police, fire, or corrections officers.