Specific rights a household has in a fair hearing

Fair hearing decisions in the CalFresh program must comply with federal law. This means that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) must follow USDA’s rules and regulations, even if they are different from the state or local rules. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(q)(1); MPP § 22-062.3.]

The hearing officer should consider any arguments the household or its authorized representative makes about whether a regulation is valid. [Woods v. Superior Court (1981) 28 Cal.3d 668.] The hearing decision should explain both what facts the hearing authority finds to be true and how the hearing authority applies the regulations to those facts. [Reese v. Kizer, (1988) 46 Cal.3d 996.]

The household has several very important rights in a fair hearing, including:

  • The right to go to the hearing in person and to have friends or relatives or a representative present at the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(o); MPP § 22-049.1.]
  • The right to have choose to have the hearing in person or by telephone and to change from a telephone hearing to an in person hearing or visa versa.
  • The right to be represented before, during and after the hearing by someone the household chooses [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.15(d)(1); MPP §§ 63-804.1, 63-804.4, 22-001(a)(6), 22-049.1, 22-085).] This can be a lawyer, a paralegal, an advocate, a friend, or anyone else the household wants to represent its members. [Welfare Rights Org. v. Crisan, 33 Cal.3d 766 (1983) (right to be represented by anyone the household chooses, not just an attorney).]
  • The right to see one’s CalFresh case file and get a free copy of any papers in the file needed to prepare for the hearing. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.15(i)(1), 273.15(l)(3)-(4), 273.15(p)(1); Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 10850.2, 11206; MPP §§ 63-201.32, 22-051.1-.3, 19-005); ACL 16-02.] This includes seeing a fraud investigator’s report when that report is the used for an administrative action against the client (subject to other privileges such as indentity of an informant). [ACL 16-02 at p.9.]
    • The county can withhold documents from the case file that it determines are privileged.  For CalFresh administrative hearings, privileges are the same as in the Evidence Code.  [MPP § 19-006.]  If the county withholds or redacts documents under a privilege claim, the county should provide a CW 2213 form explaining what they have withheld and why. [ACL 16-02 at p.12.]
    •  The claimant can then challenge the privilege claim at the hearing.
  •   The household also has the right to see its file to help it decide whether to ask for a hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 272.1(c)(3); MPP § 63-201.32.] The CalFresh office must let the household do this in sufficient time so that the household can get ready for the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(1).]  Copies must be provided free of charge for preparation for a hearing or deciding whether to request a hearing.  (MPP § 22-051.31; ACL 16-02 at p.13.]
  • The right to get the county’s Statement of Position at least two business days before the hearing.  [MPP § 22-073.252.]  The claimant is entitled to a postponement of the hearing if the county does not provide its Statement of Position at least two business days before the hearing.  [MPP § 22-074.253.]
  • The right to have the GEN 1365 Notice of Language Services included with the Statement of Position, and the right to an oral interpretation of the Statement of Position and all exhibits at least two business days before the hearing.  [ACL 22-56.]
  • The right to bring witnesses to support what the household is saying [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(3); MPP §§ 22-049.74, 22-051.41.];
  • The right to ask questions of any witness the county brings to the hearing and to ask questions of anyone else from the CalFresh office who knows about your case. [7 C.F.R. 273.15(p)(5); MPP § 22-049.72.]
  • The right to explain why the household thinks it is right in questioning the state agency’s action affecting its benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(2); MPP §§ 22-049.7, 22-051.]
  • The right to talk freely to the Administrative Law Judge. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(4); MPP §§ 22-049.7, 22-051.] At the hearing, no one from the CalFresh office should interrupt, threaten or yell at any member of the household, its representative, or witnesses appearing on its behalf.
  • The right to give the Administrative Law Judge papers that support the household’s side. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(6); MPP §§ 22-049.7, 22-051.73.]
  • The right to reply to what the CalFresh office says. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(p)(5); MPP §§ 22-049.7, 22-051.76, .78.]; and
  • The right to have the Administrative Law Judge make a decision based only on the papers the household and the CalFresh office give her at the hearing and only the statements made at the hearing. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(q)(1); MPP § 22-061.5.]