Washington State Administrative Agencies

What is a Washington State Administrative Agency | A Lawyer’s Perspective.

"WACapitolBldgInterior" by I, Cacophony. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“WACapitolBldgInterior” by I, Cacophony. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In Washington, our three branches of government have created a staggering number of administrative agencies. These agencies are generally given the power and authority to write law like the legislature, interpret and apply law like the judiciary and occasionally execute and enforce law like the executive branch of government. These various administrative agencies often create additional agencies, boards and commissions to help them manage their duties. As a result of these growing layers, agencies become a confusing rabbit warren of bureaucracy, laws and policies that only trained lawyers | attorneys are comfortable navigating. Getting things done in this kind of environment requires lawyers who are result driven and knows when to negotiate, be patient and persistent or be aggressive and fight. Whether your lawyer chooses to negotiate, advocate, fight and litigate, or appeal, an administrative law  lawyer should always be focused on how to achieve a result in a policy, rule and self policing environment.

From the perspective of administrative lawyers | attorneys, we see administrative agencies as highly bureaucratic entities who are oriented and driven by policy and rule and tend to have multiple layers of administration that are kept in balance by a right to appeal most rulings to an independent and separate judiciary i.e. the Court system. If you are looking for the authority to do something, it may take a legally accurate approach and working through multiple layers of bureaucracy to get to a person who knows what is going on, is willing to take action or is capable of fair judgment. If you are dealing with a Washington agency in its punitive or judging capacity, it is important to recognize administrative agencies serve general policies and often work as the investigator and judge. As attorneys | lawyers, knowing and working with the concepts embodied in these policies is as important as recognizing the inherent conflict, danger and legal issues in dealing with an organization that investigates, judges and punishes at the same time.

In general, most administrative agencies have their own internal appeal process you must go through to get an order or decision reevaluated by appealing to an independent judge, often a local County Superior Court judge. In general, once this internal appeal process is exhausted, you can seek outside review of an administrative order by an impartial fact finder; in most cases. this is a Superior Court judge with no “ties” to the agency and who is a member of a completely different branch of government i.e. the judicial branch. One exception to the general rule in Washington that each party bear the costs of his or her own attorney fees is in administrative appeals to a Superior Court under these kind of circumstances. There are a number of statutory based situations where a party that is forced to appeal an administrative ruling can force the agency to pay their administrative lawyer’s fees. These situations are very fact specific, and the case must be properly set up for appeal (a common error), so speak with a lawyer | attorney before assuming you will be reimbursed.

If you do not practice law, it is important to understand, in general, you cannot supplement facts or stories as you “appeal” a case or situation up to a higher court in most legal systems. In most cases in Washington, you are stuck with the facts or “record” you originally created in a case as court rules are designed to prevent litigation from spinning out of control. From a winning perspective, if the issue is important, clients should recognize the value in engaging an administrative law lawyer early on in a case to assure an appealable “record” is created i.e. all the necessary facts and details are entered correctly. If a situation is properly positioned from the beginning, the case should be well positioned to prevail or win if any internal or external appeal is necessary. If a case is poorly positioned upfront and all issues are not raised, you end up losing initially and you are left with no real remedy through the appeal’s process because you cannot add more facts to the record you are appealing. If you want to win, starting out with a correctly laid out case is essential when results matter. This is the primary reason why we recommend and encourage people and businesses to engage an effective legal team up front. Although this advice seems self-serving, it is a wise decision.

Be aware that administrative law cases are always very time sensitive. If you are having a problem, engage a lawyer | attorney immediately as failing to assert your rights within the statutory time period for the claim or appeal period means, in general, you will probably lose the right to pursue your action. Administrative law issues are harsh; they are designed to be quick and final. Too many people have lost their right to do anything because they failed to recognize they had a small, inflexible and limited time frame to act within.

This firm of lawyers is a unique blend of litigation skills, experience, knowledge and temperament. Whether we are in the role of counsel at law, ambassador, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience resolving complex situations with our clients’ best interests in mind. Choosing incompetent, lazy or ineffective counsel can make your legal journey a long and difficult road. This firm is founded on a service, a blue-collar work ethic, teamwork and an intense dislike of losing. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

Robert Rhodes

With a successful background in law, courtrooms, wrestling, rugby and jujitsu, Robert Rhodes’s nature is well-suited for argument and litigation. Mr. Rhodes knows how to talk clearly and directly to his clients, adversaries and to the Court. His common sense, straight talk and experience put his clients immediately at ease. Mr. Rhodes does not do anything half way and you will sense this when you meet him. Read more >>