Dupree v. D.C. Office of Employee Appeals and DC Dept. of Corrections , No. 09-CV-937 (D.C. Dec. 22, 2011).

The D.C. Court of Appeals held that it was reversible error for the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals Administrative Judge to decide a District employee's appeal without holding an evidentiary hearing, since there were contested factual issues, not purely legal issues:

A. Evidentiary Hearing

First, appellant claims that the ALJ should have conducted an evidentiary hearing "to adduce testimony to support the argument that the agency's termination action was flawed and contrary to law." The ALJ declined to conduct an evidentiary hearing because he determined that this matter could be decided based on the documentary evidence in the record. The regulations governing OEA hearings give the ALJ discretion 5 to conduct an evidentiary hearing, or to decide on the record.6 See 6-B DCMR § 625.1 and -.2 ("If the [ALJ] grants a request for evidentiary hearing, or makes his or her own determination that one is necessary, the [ALJ] will so advise the parties[.]") (emphasis added). However, our review of the administrative record reveals that the documents submitted in response to appellant's contentions obfuscated rather than clarified the material issues, rendering it very difficult to decide these issue on the record. The ALJ was made aware of these material issues in the appellant's initial notice of appeal (wherein he outlined three of the four issues he now appeals) and in his Opposition to Agency's Motion to Dismiss & Motion for a Closed Evidentiary Hearing.

This is not a case where appellant never raised material issues, and therefore the ALJ was not aware of the need for an evidentiary hearing. Cf. Anjuwan v. District of Columbia Dep't of Pub. Works, 729 A.2d 883, 885 (D.C. 1998) (affirming OEA's denial of an evidentiary hearing where appellant made no mention of the issue of retaliation even after the ALJ ordered the parties to identify the issues to be resolved in the case).

Neither is this a case where only questions of law are concerned, since factual determinations remain at issue for at least two of the four issues noted above. . . . We therefore conclude that, under the circumstances of this case, the ALJ abused his discretion by failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing.

The case is available online at : http://www.dcappeals.gov/dccourts/appeals/pdf/09-sCV-937_MTD.PDF.

– submitted by Alan Kabat