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A. Adjudications by administrative bodies

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  • Alaska

    The deliberations of an administrative body acting in an "adjudicating" role — such as the Game Board or the state Bar Association or the Architect's and Engineer's Board deciding on whether to suspend or revoke a license — are not covered by the open meetings act, although the fact-gathering, evidentiary hearing stage of such proceedings is covered. Specifically, the language of the statute is that the open meetings law "does not apply to a governmental body performing a judicial or quasi-judicial function when holding a meeting solely to make a decision in an adjudicatory proceeding." AS 44.62.310(d)(1). Because those meetings or portions of a meeting that are not conducted solely to make a decision do not fit within this exemption, they are governed by the Open Meetings Act.   Conversely to the extent that meetings or portions of meetings fall within the exemption, those gatherings need not comply with any of the provisions of the act—including those provisions requiring reasonable public notice, those requiring that certain procedures be followed for going into executive session, such as public votes and the notification of individuals to be discussed in a way that could prejudice their reputation or character. The municipal code provisions of state law affording a right of participation in public meetings that does not exist in the open meetings act otherwise tracks the open meetings act by incorporating its exceptions and exemptions, so this right to be heard at municipal meetings does not extend a right to participate, or even be present, to the subject of an adjudication in the portion of an adjudicatory meeting closed pursuant to AS 44.62.319(d)(6) or its analogues. Griswold v. City of Homer, 55 P.3d 64, 73 (Alaska 2002).

    In common usage, "adjudication" includes any dispute and resolution procedure. It is a proceeding for determining facts or rights of parties, and is generally synonymous with or analogous to the term "litigation." Whenever parties litigate, the decision-maker adjudicates. For example, in the context of advising the Alaska Public Utilities Commission (now known as the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, or “RCA”), the Attorney General advised the Commission that "adjudicatory proceedings" include all proceedings of a commission for determining disputes between parties or determining the rights of a party, including all formal dockets of the commission with the exception of rulemaking proceedings. See generally, March 27, 1986, Attorney General Opinion No. 661-86-0494. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the scheme of laws applying to state agencies, there are two classes of formal agency action, rulemaking and administrative adjudication, and the definition of adjudication as everything other than rulemaking has been reflected in Alaska Supreme Court opinions. Id. The Attorney General has advised the APUC, for example, that certification in rate making proceedings are adjudicatory, since each of these types of proceedings meet the requirements of involving the expansion or contraction of state granted rights, authorities, licenses or privileges. The question of what is not adjudication and therefore not subject to the exception of AS 44.62.310(d)(1), is addressed in the 1986 Attorney General Opinion to the APUC. Id. at 3. In addition to rulemaking procedures, which are generally subject to OMA requirements, and are not adjudication, the Attorney General has observed that there are a number of other things that agencies do that are not adjudication:

    • General policies. An agency may discuss its policies and directions, often outside the context of a specific rulemaking or adjudicatory proceeding.
    • Investigation/negotiation. Commission investigations of the practices of those they regulate are not necessarily adjudication even though they may lead to adjudicatory proceedings.
    • Business or management activities. The commission is required to operate a substantial agency with a number of employees, and the internal management of the agency is neither rulemaking nor adjudication.

    March 27, 1986 Attorney General opinion, supra, at 3-4. These sorts of actions do not fall within the OMA exceptions set out in AS 44.62.310(d)(1). The Attorney General advised the APUC that informal adjudication, including for example, permission action on tariff advice letters, should be handled in compliance with the OMA even though this is not literally required by the act. Id. at 4. (Tariff advice ("TA") letters are filings made by a utility to seek Commission approval of a rate change, contract or other change in its existing tariff.) Note that the Regulatory Commission of Alaska’s current regulations provide for public meetings of the RCA, 3 AAC 48.180-.187.  They also provide that the commission will, in its discretion, conduct deliberations on adjudicatory matters in public, though public deliberations on adjudicatory matters conducted in public are not subject to the provisions of 3 AAC 48.180 – 3 AAC 48.187.

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  • Arizona

    Any proceedings by a “quasi-judicial body” consisting of a board of more than one member must comply with the OML.  A.R.S. § 38-431(6)(7).  Proceedings by a single administrative judge do not fall under the OML.  These proceedings may be open or closed depending on the nature and circumstances of the proceeding and the applicable statutes and agency regulations.

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  • Arkansas

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Connecticut

    There are no specific provisions or exemptions in FOIA on this issue. There are also no reported court decisions on this issue.

    An executive session may be allowed if an open session would result in the disclosure of exempt records. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-200(6)(E). See Records Outline at II.A.2 and IV.

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  • Delaware

    Deliberations are not necessarily closed, nor are fact-finding conferences.

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  • Georgia

    The Act does not exempt adjudications by administrative bodies.

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  • Idaho

    Adjudication by administrative bodies are open to the public if they fall within the definitions of the Open Meeting Law and constitute meetings taken to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter. Idaho Code §§ 74-202, 74-203(1).

    The Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole is accorded limited exemption from this provision of the Open Meeting Law. Idaho Code § 20-213A. While their meetings are generally open, deliberations and decisions concerning paroles can be made in executive session and the votes of individual parole board members on such decisions shall not be made public. Idaho Code § 20-213A(1)(a). But the public may obtain overall vote tallies of Commission’s decisions. Idaho Code § 20-213A(2). Only the Public Utilities Commission, Industrial Commission Board of Tax Appeals, Idaho Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association, Idaho Insurance Guaranty Association, and Surplus Line Association are granted a limited exception from the law for specific meetings in fully submitted adjudicatory proceedings. Idaho Code § 74-203(2)-(3).

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  • Illinois

    Administrative bodies are explicitly covered by the Act and their meetings are generally open. However, their adjudications are subject to the exemptions.

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  • Iowa

    Oral proceedings in contested cases are open to the public. Iowa Code § 17A.12(7).
    All final orders, decisions and opinions are available for public inspection, except to the extent necessary to prevent clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy or trade secrets. Iowa Code § 17A.3(1)(d).

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  • Kentucky

    Deliberations of judicial and quasi-judicial bodies "regarding individual adjudications or appointments" are generally excluded from the provisions of the Open Meetings Act. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.810(1)(j). Just because an administrative body occasionally holds hearings on certain matters, does not make all of its meetings exempt from the Open Meetings Act as a quasi-judicial body. Stinson v. State Bd. of Accountancy, 625 S.W.2d 589 (Ky. Ct. App. 1981).

    Disciplinary hearings of students, employees or members of a public agency are excluded from the Open Meetings Act unless the individuals being disciplined request a public hearing. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.810(1)(f).

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  • Louisiana

    Closed, if the bodies are "quasi-judicial in nature and function." Central Metairie Civic Association v. Parish of Jefferson, 478 So. 2d 1298 (La. App. 5th Cir. 1985), writ denied, 481 So. 2d 631 (La. 1986) (zoning appeals board or boards of adjustment hearings are not covered by the Open Meeting Law).

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  • Maine

    Generally open. 5 M.R.S.A. § § 9051-A, 9052, 9054.

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  • Maryland

    The Act's provisions apply to meetings of all public bodies unless they are engaging in administrative, judicial, or quasi-judicial functions. § 3-103(a). To the extent that an administrative adjudication falls within these functions, the Act does not apply. See §§ 3-101, 3-103. To the extent that an administrative body exercises other functions (e.g. advisory, legislative, or quasi-legislative), its meetings, including its deliberative and decision making processes, must be open to the public. See id.. All meetings in which the granting of a license or permit or in which zoning matters are being considered are explicitly within the scope of the Act. § 3-103(b); see also Wesley Chapel Bluemount Ass'n. v. Baltimore County, 347 Md. 125, 699 A.2d 434 (1997) (construing phase "other zoning matter" and determining that zoning board was required to conduct development plan deliberations in open session).

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  • Michigan

    Some administrative adjudications are specifically exempted in Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.263(8). In other cases, statutes governing certain administrative adjudications may render some information confidential. See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.268(h).

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  • Nebraska

    Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1409(1)(b)(ii) provides that “entities conducting judicial proceedings” are not public bodies for purposes of the public meeting laws.  In McQuinn v. Douglas County School District No. 66, 259 Neb. 720, 612 N.W. 2d 198 (2000), the Court held that a school board exercises judicial functions when it decides a question of adjudicative fact or if a statute requires it to act in a judicial manner, and concluded that a school board holding a hearing to decide whether or not to renew a probationary teacher’s conflict acts judicially and that such hearing is not subject to the Open Meetings Act.  Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1410(1) states that a closed session is allowed generally by majority vote of members of public body, "if a closed session is clearly necessary for the protection of the public interest or for the prevention of needless injury to the reputation of an individual and if such individual has not requested a public meeting."

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  • Nevada

    Except as otherwise provided by a specific exemption, all deliberations and adjudications of an administrative body are subject to the OML. NRS 241.016(1).

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  • New Jersey

    Pursuant to the New Jersey Administrative Practice and Procedure Act, all contested matters before a state administrative agency are required to be referred to an administrative law judge for a hearing and a recommendation, report and decision. N.J.S.A. 52:14B-10(c). All evidentiary hearings, proceedings on motions and other applications before the administrative law judge are public, unless otherwise provided by statute, rule or regulation, or on order of the judge for good cause. N.J.A.C. 1:1-14.1. The principal statutory and regulatory exceptions to the public hearing requirement are in special education cases and in cases involving the Department of Human Services. Within 45 days of the hearing, the judge must issue a written report and decision, including recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law, to the administrative agency. N.J.S.A. 52: 14B-10(c). The head of the administrative agency or, in the case of a collective public body such as a commission, authority or board, the entire public body, then must issue a written decision adopting, rejecting or modifying the judge's decision.

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  • New Mexico

    A general provision, NMSA 1978 § 10-15-1(H)(3), provides for a closed meeting for an administrative adjudicatory proceeding. Substantive statutes and specific applicable agency regulations should also be considered.

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  • North Carolina

    Public bodies subject to the Executive Budget Act (G.S. § 143-1 et seq.) exercising “quasi-judicial functions” during a session held solely for the purpose of making a decision in an adjudicatory action or proceeding are not subject to the Open Meetings Law. G.S. § 143-318.18(7).

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  • North Dakota

    Generally open. Please see the discussion of statutory exemptions, outlined in Section II(A)(2) above.

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  • Ohio

    Quasi-judicial administrative adjudicative hearings are governed by Ohio Rev. Code chapter 119. Adjudicative agency hearings subject to chapter 119 are not meetings under the open meetings statute. TBC Westlake Inc. v. Hamilton County Bd. of Revision, 81 Ohio St.3d 58, 689 N.E.2d 32 (1998).

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  • Oregon

    Under ORS 192.690(1) state agencies conducting hearings on contested cases under the Oregon Administrative Procedures Act or in cases of Workers’ Compensation Board reviews are outside the Public Meetings Law. Therefore, both the hearing and the adjudication are closed.

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  • Rhode Island

    No specific exemption. May be covered by exemption (4), which includes investigative proceedings regarding allegations of civil or criminal misconduct.

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  • South Carolina

    Where a public body is holding an adversarial hearing the person appearing before the body may demand that the hearing be open to the public. The public body may hear the case in public and then convene in executive session to discuss the matter. No vote or formal action may be taken in executive session. The body must return to public session to vote. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-70.

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  • South Dakota

    Except in cases of professional review, they are presumably open. SDCL Chap. 1-26.

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  • Tennessee

    Open, T.C.A. § 4-5-312. See Op. Att'y Gen. No. V94-21 (Feb. 4, 1994) (city civil service board, even when acting in quasi-judicial capacity, may not meet in closed session).

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  • Vermont

    Open Meeting Law does not apply to deliberations of public body in connection with quasi-judicial proceedings. 1 V.S.A. § 312(e).

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  • Virginia

    Administrative adjudications are not governed generally by the Act; rather, administrative case decisions are governed by the Administrative Process Act, Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-4000 et seq.  Case decision procedures are found at Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-4018 et seq.

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  • Washington

    Adjudications by state administrative bodies are generally covered by the APA and, therefore, are not covered by the OPMA. RCW 42.30.140(3). As a general rule, the fact-finding of such bodies is open, but the deliberations are closed.

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  • West Virginia

    Adjudicatory hearings by state or municipal bodies fall within the Open Meeting Act definition of "meeting." However, in defining the word "meeting," the Legislature excepted "any meeting for the purpose of making an adjudicatory decision in any quasi-judicial, administrative or court of claims proceeding." W. Va. Code §  6-9A-2(6). The exemption thus exempts meetings of such bodies in which the members discuss among themselves decisions that they must make in the course of an adjudication.

    The West Virginia Supreme Court in Appalachian Power held that deliberations toward a decision regarding a utility rate increase fell within this adjudicatory exception. Appalachian Power Co. v. Public Service Commission, 162 W. Va. 839, 253 S.E.2d 377 (1979).  This broad exception may not prevail under McComas, 197 W. Va. 188, 475 S.E.2d 280, 289 (1996), to the extent that deliberations in the nature of fact-finding meetings may be required to be conducted openly so that the public can learn the facts behind a given decision, but McComas clearly did not involve an adjudicatory decision.

    Therefore, the nature and scope of this exception is unclear. In a more recent case involving a decision made by a town zoning board of appeals, the Court held that “while the Open Governmental Proceedings Act ... applies generally to [m]unicipal Boards of Zoning Appeals, the provisions of . . . the Act do not apply to ... ‘any meeting for the purpose of making an adjudicatory decision in a quasi-judicial administrative or court of claims proceeding,’” citing, W. Va. Code § 6–9A–2(4)(A). The court emphasized that “a quasi-judicial body is not required to conduct its deliberations for an adjudicatory decision in public view.” Sayers v. Bd. of Zoning Appeals of Town of Wardensville, No. 14-0087, 2014 WL 6607510 (W. Va. Supreme Court, Nov. 24, 2014) (mem. decision).

    Again, it is important to remember that although quasi-judicial proceedings are exempt from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act, they are covered by the open courts mandate of the state constitution, as in Daily Gazette v. W. Va. State Bar, 176 W. Va. 550, 326 S.E.2d 705 (1984).

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  • Wyoming

    The Wyoming Supreme Court in Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals, 2010 WY 2, ruled that agencies acting a quasi-judicial capacity must adhere to the Public Meetings Act.  These agencies must conduct their deliberations in public.  The Court also rejected the argument by the board that it was not a "governing body of an agency" because it was not the ultimate decision-making body of the agency, such as the city council or county commission.  The ruling also affirmed the standing of the public, and the media as its representative, to contest violations of the open meetings and open records acts.

    In 2011, the Wyoming Supreme Court explained the process by which a governmental entity may cure a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Gronberg v. Teton County Housing Authority, 247 P.3d 35, 2011 WY 13.  Any action taken at a meeting not in compliance with the act is null and void.  The Court ruled that the "Act would permit ratification of a prior “void” action, if the ratification is done in compliance with the Act. We hold that an agency may “cure” a “void” action made in violation of the Public Meetings Act by conducting a new and substantial reconsideration of the action in a manner which complies with the Act."  The reconsideration must be one "in which the public is afforded ample opportunity to know the facts and to be heard with reference to the matters at issue."

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