Chaudhary v. Department of Human Services, 2021 IL App. (2d) 200364 -(September 16, 2021).
Determining who has the burden of proof in an administrative proceeding can be crucial to the outcome of the case. Which side has the burden of proof in a State administrative hearing? Is it always the person who seeks administrative adjudication of the administrative decision? The ruling in Chaudhary v. Department of Human Services supports the proposition that the party seeking to change the status quo has the burden of proof. In this case, the Department of Human Services determined that Ms. Chaudhary received an overpayment of Snap (food stamp) benefits. The issue involved her husband’s residence during the period she received the benefits,
Chaudhary. appealed the overpayment decision and was given an administrative hearing. At that hearing, the ALJ determined that Chaudhary had the burden of proving that she did not receive an overpayment, The ALJ found for the Department. Eventually, the case reached the appellate court which reversed. The court found that the Department was attempting to change the status quo by initiating a proceeding to recoup the alleged over-payment benefits from Chaudhary and therefore, the Department had the burden of proving that Chaudhary was overpaid. Below is an excerpt of the decision.
“… Chaudhary’s argument that the party who seeks to change the status quo should bear the burden of proof is well-taken. See 2 Kenneth S. Broun et al., McCormick on Evidence § 337 (8th ed. 2020) (“The burdens of pleading and proof with regard to most facts have been and should be assigned to the plaintiff who generally seeks to change the present state [*23] of affairs and who therefore naturally should be expected to bear the risk of failure of proof or persuasion. ” (Emphasis added.)). We have previously applied this general concept. In Szewczyk, we determined that a police chief properly bore the burden of proof to show that the department should hire him back to the police department, reasoning that he initiated the relevant proceeding by filing a petition for reinstatement. Szewczyk v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners, 2011 IL App (2d) 100321, x 62, 953 N.E.2d 967, 352Ill. Dec. 286. we noted that, under the Illinois Municipal Code, the police chief was not entitled to a hearing where the Village would be required to show cause for his termination or allow him to present a defense. Id. In other words, the police chief jn Szewcyzk was the party seeking to change the status quo of being discharged from the police department.
All the primary case law relied upon by the parties is consistent with the idea absent a statutory provision to the contrary, the party who brings a claim is the party who bears the burden of proof during the administrative proceedings on that claim.
ATTENTION: Appellate Court applies agency deference standard – see Kishwaukee Auto Corral v. Dept of Revenue, 2020 IL (1st) 299236 (November 5, 2021)
A core doctrine of administrative law states that courts should defer to agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes so long as these interpretations are “reasonable.” The Illinois Supreme Court has sanctioned the applicability of this legal doctrine in Illinois…. See the full story here.
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