Pay Attention to Administrative Appeal Deadlines

When practicing administrative law you must pay close attention to deadlines.  Sometime the attorney is not at fault because they did not get the case until it is too late.  McLain v. Kent School District is a perfect example.  No. 68373-0-I (Dec. 16, 2013).

A school district has the right to not renew the contract for a certified teacher if there is probable cause.  RCW 28A.405.210.  When a teacher receives a notice of nonrenewal, they  may file a notice of appeal.  If they file the notice within 10 days, they are entitled to a hearing to determine if there was sufficient cause for nonrenewal.  RCW 28A.405.310, .210.

When the teacher requests an administrative hearing, that teacher and the district must designate a nominee to jointly agree to a hearing officer.  RCW 28A.405.310.  If the nominees fail to agree on which hearing officer, either party may file a petition with the presiding judge of the superior court to appoint a hearing officer RCW28A.405.310(4).

In this case, McLain, the teacher, knew he had a right to an administrative hearing under RCW 28A.405.210. The district notified him on February 23, 2010, that it had probable cause to not renew his contract because he did not demonstrate sufficient improvement during his probationary period. McLain timely appealed the decision under chapter 28A.405 RCW.  His attorney reviewed the supporting documentation, but withdrew on July 12.  The attorney notified the district and instructed it to contact McLain directly after that. Despite repeated requests from the District in July and August, McLain did not designate a nominee or jointly select a hearing officer.  The next time the district heard from McLain was through his new attorney in November.

Under those circumstances, the court concluded McLain waived his right to an administrative appeal under chapter 28A.405 RCW by failing to comply with the mandatory statutory requirements and deadlines.

In this situation there was no lower court, but if you are the attorney in an administrative hearing it is important to point out deadlines for appeal.  This also frequently occurs in superior court when appearing before commissioners.  If your representation agreement limits the scope of your representation to exclude any revision or appeal then you should explain to the client ahead of time that s/he will have to retain new counsel quickly if they choose to appeal.

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