Pleadings in Adjudicatory Proceedings

The Federal Administrative Proceedings Act does not clearly mention the need for pleadings.  The Act requires that affected persons be given notice.  Some federal statutes require the filing and service of a formal complaint.  Some state administrative procedure acts provide for written complaints or statements of issues, and compliance with such statutes is a prerequisite to jurisdiction.

The complaint in an administrative proceeding should be precise and specific.  Statutes and rules require clear and concise statement of the claims or charges upon which the petitioner relies.  Proceedings before an administrative agency that are instituted by a petition, complaint, or application necessarily involve the right of counterpleading or answer.  The Federal Administrative Procedure Act provides for responsive pleadings in actions commenced by private parties by stating that, if private persons are the moving parties, other parties to the proceeding must give prompt notice of the issues controverted in fact or in law.  A responsive pleading must contain a short and concise statement of facts relevant to the issues raised in the complaint, rather than conclusions of law.

Administrative pleadings are easily amended.  A presiding officer at an administrative proceeding has the power to grant motions to amend pleadings.  If an administrative complaint is amended to include new counts after the close of hearings, additional hearings must be held to address the new violations.

To warrant dismissal of administrative proceedings for delay, a party must show unreasonable or unconscionable delay by the government in initiating, conducting, or concluding proceedings and that the party’s ability to defend against the allegations has been substantially prejudiced by the delay.


Inside Pleadings in Adjudicatory Proceedings