by Gene Doyle, LMSW
In a May 23, 1991 memorandum to ALJs, OAH attorney Sharon Silversmith distributed the new recusal regulations, which, as of May 29, 1991,
"establish a procedure establish a procedure for the removal of hearing officers holding various types of hearings, including special hearings. This includes hearings involving Public Assistance, Medical Assistance (MA), food stamps, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) grants, and a variety of social services programs. In addition, the proposed regulations apply to hearings involving operators of residential care facilities for adults and children, operators of day care facilities and providers of MA.
"A party to the hearing may make a request to a hearing officer that the hearing officer remove himself or herself from presiding at the hearing. The grounds for removal are that the hearing officer has:
"In addition the hearing officer may independently determine to remove himself or herself from presiding at a hearing on the same grounds.
"The request for removal made by a party must:
"Upon receipt of a request for removal, the hearing officer must determine on the record whether to remove himself or herself from the hearing. Please consult with your supervisor prior to making a determination on a recusal request.
"If the hearing officer determines not to remove himself or herself from presiding at the hearing, the hearing officer must advise the party requesting removal that the hearing will continue but the request for removal will automatically be reviewed by the General Counselor her designee.
"The determination of the hearing officer not to remove himself or herself will be reviewed by Susan V. Demers until further notice. Such review will include review of written documents submitted by the parties and the transcript of the hearing.
"The regulations require that the General Counselor her designee issue a written determination of whether the hearing officer should be removed from presiding at the hearing within 15 business days of the close of the hearing. The written determination of the general counselor the general counsel's designee will be made part of the record.
"While the General Counselor her designee reviews the hearing officer's determination not to recuse himself or herself, the hearing decision itself will be held in abeyance. Where the General Counsel determines that the hearing officer should have been removed from presiding at the hearing, a decision will be issued stating the determination and remanding the matter for a de novo hearing.
"Where the General Counsel or her designee determines that the hearing officer properly determined not to remove himself or herself from presiding at the hearing, the hearing decision will include a discussion of the determination of the General Counsel or her designee on the recusal issue.
"Any case where a determination not to recuse is made should be promptly drafted and returned to your supervisor so that the review process can be started immediately to ensure that the review and written determination can be completed within 15 business days of the close of the hearing" (emphasis in original).
Id. at pp. 1-2.
Effective May 29, 1991, ALJs holding Fair Hearings under 18 NYCRR Part 358, must add the following language to their opening statements:
"If I have ever dealt with your case, except as a hearing officer, have any interest which no longer makes me independent or I display bias or partiality to any party at this hearing, you have the right to ask that a different hearing officer be assigned to this case."
Id. at p. 3.
"Governor's Executive Order No. 131, which was issued on December 4, 1989, requires that certain State agencies which conduct adjudicatory proceedings have an Administrative Adjudication Plan. The Plan must include a procedure for any party to an adjudicatory hearing to request recusal of a hearing officer.
"The Administrative Adjudication Plan established by this Department provides that the Department will establish recusal procedures."
Id. at p. 1.
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