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Glossary of Legal Terms

This glossary explains some legal terms that appear on the OATH website and may be used during your hearing, conference, or trial. This glossary is not a dictionary. Rather, it explains how these terms are used at the OATH legal proceedings. You should not rely on this glossary for anything that is not related to a proceeding at OATH.

Adjourn: when a Hearing Officer postpones the case to a later date.

Adjudication: the process by which a Hearing Officer decides a case.

Adjudicate: to have a Hearing Officer hear and decide a case.

Administrative Hearing: where parties present legal arguments and evidence about the case to a Hearing Officer.

Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"): This term is applicable to the Trials Division . "Administrative law judge" means the person assigned to preside over a case, whether the chief administrative law judge or a person appointed by the chief administrative law judge.

Affidavit: a sworn or affirmed statement made in writing and signed; if sworn, it is notarized.

Affidavit of service: an affidavit intended to certify the service of a summons or violation on a respondent.

Affirm: an act of declaring something to be true under the penalty of perjury by a person who conscientiously declines to take an oath for religious or other pertinent reasons

Agency: any commission, board, department, authority, office or other governmental entity authorized or required by law to refer a case to OATH, regardless of whether the agency is petitioner or respondent in such a case.

Agency Representative: an employee of the City agency that wrote the summons/notice. This person gives the Hearing Officer the agency's evidence and legal arguments. This person may or may not be the officer who wrote the summons/notice.

Amend: to change.

Appeal: a review of the Hearing Officer's decision by the OATH Appeals Unit .

Appear: to come to a scheduled hearing, either in person, by mail, online, by phone or by webcam.

Article 78 Proceeding: a challenge to an OATH final determination brought in the New York State Court.

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CAPA: the City Administrative Procedure Act, §§ 1041 to 1047 of the New York City Charter ("Charter").

Case: the set of facts and background that led to the summons/notice being issued.

Cease and Desist Order: an order to stop an activity. It only applies to certain cases, including air and noise cases. The Environmental Control Board (ECB) issues these orders. They direct a person or entity that did not comply with an earlier order to immediately comply.

Chief administrative law judge: the director of OATH appointed by the mayor pursuant to Charter, § 1048.

Community Service: a service that a person performs in order to step outside his or her familiar environments, strengthen his or her sense of civic engagement, and/or benefit his or her local community instead of paying a fine. At OATH, community service will be administered by the Center for Court Innovation and may take one of several forms: review of educational materials or media, on-site service projects, group training or off-cite service projects.

Criminal Justice Reform Act ("CJRA"): A series of laws passed in June of 2016 that allows OATH to hear certain offenses that had previously been treated as criminal offenses. The CJRA effectively de-criminalized certain low level offenses and made a number of them eligible of for community service instead of a fine.

Cross- exam: to ask questions of the other side after they present evidence or make statements.

Continuance: this is a request to postpone the hearing to a later date.

Cure/Correction: admitting fault for the violation and fixing the problem before the "Cure Date" or "Correction Date" written on the summons/notice, which allows a respondent to avoid paying the penalty. This includes giving the city agency that wrote the summons/notice a certificate showing that the problem was corrected. This option is only for certain types of violations.

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Decision: the written result of a hearing.

Default: when a respondent fails to appear at the OATH hearing or answer a summons/notice within the time allowed.

Discovery: materials and paperwork demanded from another party or ordered to be turned over by a Hearing Officer or ALJ.

Dismissal: deciding the case in favor of the Respondent.

Disposition: the decision of a case.

Disqualify: when a Hearing Officer may not hear a case. The Hearing Officer may be disqualified because of his or her relationship to a party, witness, or representative, or has some other reason why he or she cannot hear that particular case.

Evidence: documents (papers, photos), witness testimony (statements under oath) or other items given to the Hearing Officer during a hearingor to an ALJ during a trial.

Exhibit: a paper, document or other article produced during a trial or hearing and, on being accepted, is admitted in evidence.

Ex Parte Communication: when one party in a case talks or writes to a Hearing Officer without the other party knowing about it. In most cases, this is not allowed.

Failure to Appear: occurs when a respondent does not show up to a legal proceeding as stated by the date and time in the summons. This usually results in a default (see above).

Filing: submitting papers to OATH, whether in person, by mail, or by electronic means, for inclusion in the record of proceedings in a case.

Fine: a sum imposed as punishment for an offense

Freedom of Information Law (FOIL): If you are not Respondent or a Respondent's representative, but want a copy of an OATH decision on a legal matter, you must make a request. All FOIL requests should be submitted through the Open FOIL Portal. You can expect to receive an acknowledgement of the receipt of your request within 5 business days. Please allow up to 30 business days for a response to your request.

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Hearing: when each side presents evidence and legal arguments about the case to the Hearing Officer.

Hearing Officer: an attorney who is specially trained to hear and decide cases at the OATH Hearings Division.

Interpreter: a person sworn at a hearing or trial to translate oral or written language. See also: Language Line.

Intervener: a person who is not the respondent or petitioner, but who might be affected by the outcome of the case. The Hearing Officer may, in certain cases, allow this person to take part in the hearing.

Issuing Officer: a City employee (usually an agent, inspector or police officer) who writes a summons/notice.

Jurisdiction: the types of cases the OATH Hearings Division is allowed to hear based on certain laws.

Krimstock Hearing: a hearing held at the Trials Division for vehicle owners and drivers whose car has been seized by the police during an arrest. You can find helpful information on Krimstock hearings in the Trials Division section of this website.

Language Line: a foreign language interpretation service used by the Department of Administrative Hearings to ensure that non-English speaking respondents are afforded their due process rights to fully participate in the hearing. When needed, the Administrative Law Judge can connect an interpreter to the hearing room using a speaker telephone. Language Line provides interpreting services for approximately 174 languages. This service is provided at no cost to the citizen. Respondents can still bring an interpreter with them to the hearing.

Legal Advice: the recommendation of a specific course of conduct a person should take in an actual or potential legal proceeding.

Legal Information: providing adequate information to a person so that he or she can make their own choice as to what to do in a case.

Notary Public: a person who authenticates a signature by determining that the person signing is truly the person of that name. Most banks and currency exchanges have a notary public who can notarize documents. The document must be signed in the presence of the notary public.

Notice of Appearance: a document verifying that someone appeared at OATH for a particular summons/notice.

Notice of Hearing: see Summons/Notice below.

Notice of Violation: see Summons/Notice below.

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Ombudsperson/Pro Se Clerk: the person at OATH tasked with ensuring that the Hearing and Trial processes are fair and transparent. The person tasked with investigating complaints from respondents, petitioners and OATH employees about the process and systems of OATH with the goal of resolving these complaints so as to keep the process fair and transparent. The person at OATH tasked with running the OATH Help Center.

Order: an oral or written direction given to a party by a Hearing Officer or ALJ.

Party: the Petitioner and/or the Respondent.

Penalty: an amount of money and/or other action (e.g. suspension) ordered for having violated a law or rule.

Perjury: stating or giving untrue evidence, while knowing it is untrue.

Petitioner: the City agency, department, bureau, commissioner or a citizen that issued the summons/notice.

Preponderance: level of proof in a hearing; more than half; more convincing.

Pre-trial Conference: a conference between the City agency and other parties, usually face-to-face, but sometimes by telephone in which the procedural issues and sometimes settlement are discussed. This may include exchanging evidence, clarifying the hearing issues and reaching agreement on some or all of the issues.

Prima Facie: this is the Latin term for "on its face." It means that the City enforcement agency gave enough proof to make out its case. A summons/notice, if sworn to or affirmed, is considered prima facie evidence of the facts it contains.

Procedural Justice: fairness and transparency of the processes by which decisions are made.

Pro Se: this is the Latin term meaning "for self." It refers to a respondent who comes to a hearing without a lawyer or other representative and wants to speak for him or herself.

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Reschedule: when, before the scheduled hearing, the case is changed to a later date.

Respondent: the person or entity named on the summons/notice as having committed a violation of a City rule or law.

Respondent Representative: a person that a respondent has allowed to represent him or her at a hearing.

Revocation: an action that orders a licensed respondent to permanently stop the licensed activity.

Service: a legal term for how a respondent is provided with the summons and knowledge of the offense. Sometimes requires multiple methods.

Standing: the right to appear as a party in an OATH case.

Sealing: an action that shuts down and/or padlocks a respondent's place of business or equipment.

Seizure: an action that allows a vehicle or other property to be taken away from a respondent.

Settlement/Stipulation: an agreement between the parties. The respondent admits the violation and still has to pay a penalty, but it is sometimes reduced. The respondent may also be given more time to fix the problems stated in the summons/notice. You may only do this for certain types of violations.

Stipulation: an agreement between all parties to a hearing. For example, during a pretrial conference the parties might stipulate (or agree) to some or all of the facts, and therefore will not have to present evidence about those facts. Stipulations will either be made in writing before the hearing or may be stated on the record by the parties after the hearing begins.

Subpoena: legal process which commands a witness to appear and testify.

Subpoena duces tecum: a subpoena requiring a person to produce specified documents or records.

Summons/Notice: the ticket given by the petitioner charging the respondent with violating a City rule or law.

Suspension: an action that orders a licensed respondent to stop the licensed activity. The suspension may remain in effect:

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  • For a specific period of time; or
  • Until the respondent has complied.

Testimony: a statement made by a witness or party that is taken "under oath." This means the person making the statement has promised that the statement is true. A person who lies or presents false documents or evidence may be charged with perjury.

Trial: a proceeding before an administrative law judge in the OATH Trials Division.

Tribunal: the Hearing Officers, staff, and members of the OATH Hearings Division.

Waive: to voluntarily give up a right. Sometimes Hearing Officers or an Administrative Law Judge will ask a party if they are waiving their rights to something. For example, a respondent may be asked if they have waived their right to hire an attorney. This means that the respondent has decided to go forward on the case without a lawyer or representative.

Witness: one who testifies to what he/she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed

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