A question arose while reading "Impartial hearings under the IDEA: legal issues and answers." IHO = Impartial Hearing Officer in a special education impartial hearing (a type of administrative hearing).

Does the IDEA provide any standards for IHO competence?

The IDEA competency standards require IHOs to: [...]

(iv) possess the knowledge and ability to render and write decisions in accordance with appropriate, standard legal practice.

20 U.S.C. § 1415(f)(3)(A) (2008).

The IHO who wrote the decision I'm appealing did an incredibly slapdash job, with spelling errors, grammar errors, factual errors and incorrect references. I would like a reference I can cite that shows that submitting a decision by "appropriate, standard legal practice" means, among other things, proofreading your document, or at least running your decision through a spell checker! (I don't mean the documentation would say that specifically, of course.)

  • 2
    Note that "possessing ... the ability" is not negated by neglecting to employ the ability in a particular case. – feetwet Dec 20 '16 at 23:16
  • In the US, administrative actions are assumed to be legally correct unless there is a substantial violation of procedural requirements (failure to follow the stated rules), an egregious bias (the outcome was demonstrably pre-determined), or actual violation of the law. – user6726 Dec 21 '16 at 17:59
  • I'm with feetwet's reasoning on this and would also note that you have to show not just error, but that the error was not harmless. A sloppy opinion doesn't obviously hurt you in an way. – ohwilleke Dec 21 '16 at 22:39

You are wasting your time trying to argue that spelling errors, grammar errors or incorrect references are examples of "inappropriate, standard legal practice" because they aren't. They are certainly examples of poor English and writing skills and possibly of a less than professional approach, however, that is not what is required.

You are on slightly better ground with an argument about incorrect facts except that it is quite likely that such errors will not be overturned by a court because providing the IMO has complied with the general requirements of Adjudication under administrative legal principles or the specific requirements of the statute they are entitled to be wrong. That is the adjudicator is expected to carry out their decision making role in accordance with the law and providing they have done so, it doesn't matter how many other people (including judges) think they made the wrong decision - it was their decision to make.

Further, even if you could demonstrate that the particular IHO was not competent to be an IMO, it does not follow that a decision made while they were an IMO is therefore void.

To have the decision reviewed you would need to demonstrate that it violated a general provision of administrative law, such as by failing to hold a hearing in accordance with the relevant law or failing to afford one of the parties natural justice or that the IMO had acted outside jurisdiction.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.