Appealing a Decision from the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings

The Department of Administrative Hearings is a quasi-judicial body of the City of Chicago. The department is tasked with conducting administrative hearings and resolving violations of varying Chicago ordinances. If a person is accused or charged by the City of Chicago for violating an ordinance, they are usually known as a “Respondent” and must appear at a hearing to defend their actions (or non-actions). 

Respondents are typically called in front of the Department for violations of the building code, zoning code, business license code, health code, and/or environmental issues. 

See 1818’s blog on the workings of the Department: Chicago Administration Hearings Department

What is an Administrative Review? 

An administrative review, if properly filed, allows a respondent to request a Judge from the Cook County Circuit Court to review the final administrative action to determine if the ALJ properly ruled on the matter. Administrative review works much like a regular court case only that the review is conducted after the administrative body issues its final action on the matter, or a “Final Administrative Action.” Generally, this means that the respondent has lost defending their case and the City— through an Administrative Law Judge or “ALJ”—has issued a fine, fee, or punishment for the respondent’s violations.

It’s important to note that if you miss your hearing date at the Department and the ALJ issues a “Default Order,” it will be more challenging to appeal to the Circuit Court, as one of the judicial principles involved in the appeal is that there was an actual hearing and evidence presented in front of the ALJ. If that didn’t happen, then there is little for a County judge to review.

How long do I have to file an Administrative Review?

A respondent has 35 days from the final administrative action to file an appeal for an administrative review. Generally, this will be when the judge issues a “Final Order.” Sometimes, however, the last action can take on different forms such as rulings on motions or evidence. The 35-day deadline is strict. Speaking with an attorney will help future appellants in determining the date of the final administrative. 

How to file an Administrative Review

Several forms must be filed with the court to appeal for administrative review. Appellants must also pay a filing fee and an appearance fee. For instance, if a respondent fails to acquire the proper licensing and loses their case with the Department, the filing fee for the circuit court is $368 and the appearance fee is $230.

The appeal must be filed with the Circuit Court of Cook County through the Illinois eFileIL system. Cook County has various resources to help with the process. It is advised that anyone seeking a review work with an attorney to file their case properly.

What happens after the appeal is filed?

The Circuit Court Judge will not hold a new hearing. They will review the ALJ’s decision from the Department of Administrative Hearings and determine—after the presentation of evidence from both the respondent and the City—whether the ALJ’s decision was correct. Sometimes the decision can result in a new hearing in front of the ALJ or a dismissal of the case in its entirety. Either way, the respondent must have all the evidence ready to have the greatest shot at success.

If you need assistance appealing your ALJ decision, please consult one of 1818’s experienced attorneys to help you through the process. The appeals process can be lengthy, but if you are facing substantial fines, it is oftentimes worth the fight. Contact us today if you want to appeal your DOAH ruling. 

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.