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Fair Hearings

What is a fair hearing?
If you feel the Department of Social Services has made a mistake in your case, you may be entitled to a fair hearing. During this legal proceeding, an impartial Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) holds a hearing to learn more about the facts of your case.

The ALJ has not had any prior involvement in your case. The ALJ will review the evidence presented at the hearing and issue a written decision. Any appeal of that decision is made to circuit court under the requirements of SDCL Chapter 1-26.

How do I request a hearing?
Submit a written request for hearing to the address below. The request should contain the reason for the request, your address with zip code, and your phone number. A hearing request regarding Food Stamps may also be made verbally to the Office of Administrative Hearings or to the local Department of Social Services office.

Department of Social Services
Office of Administrative Hearings
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone Number: 605.773.6851

The deadline to request a fair hearing is stated on the Department’s notice of the adverse action.

What is the notice of hearing?
You will receive advance written notice of the hearing. Read the entire Notice of Hearing. It contains important information about the time and place of the hearing and about your rights.

What is a speedy hearing?
In most cases, the ALJ must issue a final decision within 90 days (60 days in food stamp cases) after your hearing request.

You may request a postponement by contacting the Office of Administrative Hearings at least 10 days before the hearing. Any delay caused by your postponement extends the deadline for a final decision in your case.

What if the hearing is scheduled to be completed over the phone and I would rather have an in-person hearing?
If the hearing is scheduled to be held by telephone and you would prefer an in-person hearing, you must make your request at least 5 business days before the scheduled hearing.

Can anybody else come with me to the hearing?
A relative, friend or other authorized person may appear with and assist you. You have a right to the assistance of legal counsel at your own expense if you so choose.

An attorney needs time to prepare, please do not wait until the day of the hearing to seek legal advice. In some cases, free legal assistance may be available from East River Legal Services, Dakota Plains Legal Services or other sources. The ALJ does not have authority to appoint or select an attorney for you or to order any party to pay another’s legal or other costs.

What rights do I have?

  • Reasonable advance notice.
  • See evidence at a reasonable time before the hearing. At your request, the agency representative will provide you a free copy of documents or other exhibits it will offer as evidence during the hearing.
  • Be present when all evidence is taken.
  • Participate fully. You will be allowed to testify, bring witnesses, present exhibits, and ask questions or cross-examine witnesses.
  • Be assisted by a friend, a relative or your lawyer.
  • A decision made by an impartial official based solely on the evidence presented.

What should I do to prepare for the hearing?
Before the hearing, plan what you want to present. Write down questions you want to ask, arguments you want to make, and key points you may want to get across. Keep in mind that witnesses need sufficient advance notice of their need to appear.

Submit your exhibits to the ALJ at least 5 days before the hearing. If you are to appear by phone, you must also submit a copy of your exhibits to the Department representative at least 5 days before the hearing. This way, the exhibits are available to all during the hearing. Save a copy for yourself so you have your exhibits during the hearing.

A witnesses’ testimony must concern facts about which he or she has personal knowledge.  The ALJ will consider only the evidence produced for the record during the hearing, so it is important for you to present all information you want considered.

What happens during the hearing?
Fair hearings are pretty informal, but are held in a manner consistent with the rights of the parties and with respect and dignity to those involved.

  • The ALJ will open the hearing by explaining how the hearing will be conducted and the parties’ rights.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Be prepared to explain your position fully and truthfully.
  • It is helpful to bring pen and paper for notes.
  • Avoid repetition and ask short, to-the-point questions.
  • State legal objections and the ALJ will make a ruling.

The ALJ makes a decision based only on the evidence presented at hearing. He or she ensures all parties have a fair opportunity to be heard and that the record is complete.

The ALJ will not participate in a discussion with you or anyone else about the facts or merits of your case outside of a scheduled hearing.

Additional information on administrative hearing procedure can be found in South Dakota Codified Law (SDCL) Chapter 1-26 and in Administrative Rules of South Dakota (ARSD) Chapter 67:17.