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The Fair Hearing Process: Some Things You Might Not Know (Because They Don't Tell You)

It's an inevitable fact of life: if you're a client of the DSHS, you will, at some time during your "relationship" with them, find yourself disagreeing with one or more of their administrative decisions. The protocol, (from least authority to most), is as follows:

When battling the DSHS, your may find yourself outnumbered, especially if you don't know your rights (which are often withheld), and if you don't know enough about the laws that govern the DSHS.

A NOTE ABOUT ALJ'S (Administrative Law Judges) Many people don't know this, but you have the right to dismiss a judge from presiding over your case. This can be done by filing an affadavit of prejudice. You get one free chance with no questions asked as to why you want to have that judge dismissed. Any requests afterward require a valid reason for dismissal. A good reason to dismiss a judge would be if you've seen that person more than once. In other words, if you've been to a "fair hearing" at your local CSO sometime before the one you're currently having, and it ends up being the same judge, then FILE ONE OF THESE. Especially file one of these if this person has ruled against you in the past AND you're seeing him/her again. Unfortunately for us, we caught onto this too late. Our "fair hearing" was ruled over by a woman we had already seen a year earlier and who had upheld sanctions against us. When we saw her again, we simply assumed that she was the only judge working for that office. We are now quite sure that this must be happening to other people. We filed a late affadavit to dismiss her, which was tossed back and forth between the Office of Administrative Hearings and Olympia, only to be denied after much wasted time. An uninformed client is a trapped client.

Update: March 17th, 2001

For those of you who have an upcoming "fair" hearing, we'd like to say: it's a well known fact that there really isn't anything fair about a "fair" hearing. Officially, the judge is a part of a separate agency that is contracted to preside over conflicts between clients and the agency. This is meant to insure that there isn't prejudice against the client. We question whether or not this is actually so. Our experience taught us that the Board of Appeals is actually a part of the social service agency (DSHS) itself, and they were the next step up from the fair hearing level. Consider the hearing to be a "stepping stone" in your legal battle with the social services agency. If you decide to take your case beyond the fair hearing level, you will have to file in Superior Court and the Attorney General of your state will be the lawyer for your local soc. services office. Our state's superior Court has a filing fee of $120. This shouldn't deter you. If you are poor, you can have the fee waived by motion in the court - ask for the appropriate forms. They're called "in forma pauperis".

All of what we're saying on this page is born from our personal experience with battling the DSHS in court, as we continue to fight for our lives.

We have been in economic sanction for the past 22 months, as our case awaits review by WA state Court of Appeals, so you the reader can rest assured that all advice on this page is authentic, free of charge and intended to serve the public interest, with a special concern for those who are clients of the social service bureaucracy.

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