An Administrative Law Judge: Must Be Adopted or Reversed by the Commissioner of the Agency

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Appellate Law Attorney

In a previous blog, I explained the process of appealing a decision by an administrative agency, whether it is the Board of Social Services, Department of Motor Vehicles, or any other public agency.  You must request a fair hearing, where you would go in front of an administrative law judge and he or she will hear your case as to why the agency should do what you asked them to do (i.e. pay for Medicaid benefits, offer you welfare, reverse the suspension of your driving license, accredit your nursing home, reduce a tax bill or surcharge etc.).  The administrative law judge then issues his or her decision.  It is not binding, as it has to be adopted by the Commissioner of the agency in order for it to be enforceable.  But if the judge’s decision doesn’t go your way, can your request for the fair hearing be withdrawn before the agency’s decision gets confirmed in writing?

It turns out that fair hearing initial decisions must go to the Commissioner for review.  The only time a fair hearing request can be withdrawn is before the judge issues a decision.  If the Commissioner does not act within 90 days, the decision of the judge becomes final subject to appeal to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.  So once a decision is made by the ALJ, the agency decision is overridden and the Commissioner must act on the decision to become final in its current form.

This applies to summary decisions.  One party can request a summary decision if it feels that there is no genuine factual dispute. That party is entitled to a decision as a matter of law.  Most times, a summary decision decides the case fully, and the judge has the ability with summary decisions to certify them as initial decisions subject to the process above.

To discuss your NJ Administrative Law Appeal matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at  Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.