Administrative appeals are often the next step in the FOIA process when you are denied some benefit or record under the federal Freedom of Information Act. It is the process by which you ask the agency itself to reconsider its position. It is not the equivalent of a federal lawsuit and no judge is involved in deciding the merits of your administrative appeal. Agency personnel (often more senior officials and attorneys) will review the initial decisions made by FOIA processing and review staff and determine whether to uphold or reverse that decision.
Ideally, reviewing individuals give the request an entirely fresh look and do not necessarily give any deferential weight to the initial decision. Similar to the 20-day deadline agencies have under the law to respond to a FOIA request, the law requires that agency officials decide appeals within 20 working days of their receipt.1
1 See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii).