The Guide to Representing Yourself at an Administrative hearing

The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) prepared this guide to explain the process for administrative hearings in New Jersey. The information in this guide is general and covers typical situations; it does not cover all possible situations that may occur during a case. The information provided may not be appropriate for your situation. It is not legal advice. If you have legal questions, it may be advisable to contact a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you may contact the Lawyers’ Referral Service of your County Bar Association or of the State Bar Association (New Jersey Bar Association Lawyer Referral Services). If you cannot afford an attorney, you may contact the Legal Services Program in your county to see if you are eligible for free legal services. (Information on Legal Services of New Jersey can be found at http://lsnjlaw.org/)

Representation (N.J.A.C. 1:1-5.4)

You may be represented by an attorney or you may present the case yourself. (Someone who chooses to represent himself or herself in a hearing is often referred to as pro se, which is a Latin term that means for self.) In some cases a non-lawyer may assist you at the hearing if permitted by the ALJ. Some examples of cases where a non-lawyer can appear at the hearing are: a paralegal or assistant employed by legal services; a principal of a close corporation; a union representative in a civil service case; and an individual who is permitted by federal law to appear in a special education case. The list of cases where a non-lawyer can appear can be found at N.J.A.C. 1:1-5.4.

The non-lawyer must complete a Notice of Appearance/Application form (available on the OAL website under the heading “Representation”) and return it to the OAL at least ten days before the hearing. In cases from the Division of Family Development, the Division of Medical Assistance, and the Division of Youth and Family Services, the non-lawyer does not have to complete a form and he or she can ask to be allowed to appear on the day of the hearing

Try to Get a Lawyer

The court system can be confusing, and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services. Their telephone number can be found in your local yellow pages under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.”

If you do not qualify for free legal services and need help in locating an attorney, you can contact the bar association in your county. Their telephone number can also be found in your local yellow pages. Most county bar associations have a Lawyer Referral Service. The County Bar Lawyer Referral Service can supply you with the names of attorneys in your area willing to handle your particular type of case and sometimes consult with you at a reduced fee.

There are also a variety of organizations of minority lawyers throughout New Jersey, as well as organizations of lawyers who handle specialized types of cases. Ask your county court staff for a list of lawyer referral services that include these organizations.