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How Do I Appeal an Agency Decision?

How Do I Appeal an Agency Decision? A Brief Summary of Judicial Review

Many people are somewhat familiar with the process that lawsuits – whether civil or criminal – go through from the time they are filed to their conclusion. Maybe you’ve learned this in a civics class, you’ve actually been a part of a civil or criminal proceeding (whether as a witness or a party), you’ve gone through a divorce, or you’ve served on a jury. What you may be less familiar with is an administrative proceeding. Administrative proceedings can take a number of different forms, so it can be helpful to identify several agencies in Indiana with whom you may be familiar. Administrative agencies that many people have some knowledge of include: the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency. Each agency can exercise its authority pursuant to an Indiana law called the Administrative Order and Procedures Act (“AOPA”). Under AOPA, when an agency enters what is called a “final agency action,”1 the affected person or entity may be able to file a petition for judicial review. This blog examines four key points, what that is and some important considerations about judicial review:

Judicial Review is Appellate in Nature. A judicial review is akin to an appeal. What you are doing is filing a petition with a state trial court and taking the position that the agency in question did something to you that was (1) arbitrary, capricious, and/or unlawful, (2) contrary to a constitutional right, (3) outside the agency’s authority, (4) a violation of the procedure that the agency was required to follow, or (5) unsupported by substantial evidence.2 When you file a judicial review, you don’t usually get to present new evidence or have a “trial.” Rather, what occurs after the filing of a petition is that a record is prepared (the documents and evidence submitted and a transcript if a hearing was held), and then the parties file briefs (written arguments) stating their position as to why the final agency decision was wrong or right. A hearing may be held, but these are usually conducted by attorneys – there are usually no witnesses, there is no jury, etc.

Pursuant to AOPA, the Burden to Succeed on a Judicial Review is Difficult. As stated, it is not enough simply to point out that an agency made a mistake to “win” a petition for judicial review. You must show that the agency action was (1) arbitrary, capricious, and/or unlawful, (2) contrary to a constitutional right, (3) outside the agency’s authority, (4) a violation of the procedure that the agency was required to follow, or (5) unsupported by substantial evidence. So, the trial court reviewing the petition will defer to the agency unless one of these five situations is shown.

Timing is Important in Judicial Reviews. Ind. Code § 4-21.4-5-5 provides that a petition for review is timely only if it is filed within thirty (30) days after the date that notice of the agency action was served. If you do not file within this time period, your petition will be dismissed. After you file your petition, you have thirty (30) days to file the agency record.3 If you do not do this in time, your petition will be dismissed.4

You Must Exhaust the Administrative Process to proceed with a Judicial Review. Sometimes, there is a layer of appeal of review within an agency. For example, if an agency does something that is adverse to you, the notification may advise that you can submit a letter of appeal to the commissioner of the agency within a certain time period. If you want to proceed with a judicial review in the future, you must exhaust all of these options in the time manner specified or you waive your right to review.5

The Remedy Available is Usually Remand. If you “win” your judicial review, a trial court can do one of two things after setting aside the agency action: (1) remand the case to the agency for further proceedings, or (2) compel agency action that has been unreasonably delayed or unlawfully withheld. Essentially, judicial review success removes the adverse agency action then places you back in front of the agency for further proceedings.

Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates have handled judicial review (sometimes referred to as administrative appeals) matters throughout the state. We hope this blog post help you consider your options if you are the subject of an adverse agency action. This blog is written for general informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.


  1. An example of a typical proceeding may be the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration denying you certain benefits that you believe you are entitled to under the law or the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency suspending or revoking your professional license (nursing, cosmetology, optometry, pharmacy, real estate, etc.).
  2. Ind. Code § 4-21.5-5-14.
  3. Ind. Code § 4-21.5-5-13(a).
  4. First American Title Ins. Co. v. Robertson, 19 N.E.3d 757, 762-63 (Ind. 2014).
  5. Ind. Code § 4-21.5-5-4.
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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Ciyou & Dixon will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. In addition, this practice focus is augmented by the firm's other three core areas, namely appellate advocacy, civil practice, and firearms law. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counselSM.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.