Fair Hearings: Travis’ Top Ten Tips for Hearings

  1. Be familiar with the case:  Your goal should be to know more about the facts and the law than anyone else in the room. At minimum, you should know the facts better than anyone else.
  2. Think about what the hearing is really about:  Even before you prepare a notice of adverse action, figure out what the case is really about. If the adverse action was because the person did not provide information about income needed to determine eligibility, you do not need to deal with other factors of eligibility.
  3. Only include facts and policy that the AHO needs to know: The AHO will be grateful if you do not provide documents and testimony that are not relevant to the issue that led to the adverse action. Not cluttering the record with unnecessary exhibits and testimony also makes it easier for the AHO to  understand your explanation of what happened, and why.
  4. Tell the story in the order it happened: It is far easier to understand your story if you tell it in the order things happened.  It makes your story much more difficult to follow if it jumps forward and backward in time.
  5. Avoid pronouns: “I went down the hall and talked to them and then we went to lunch.” Who is “them ”? How many are “them”? Are “we” the same as “them”, or some of “them”, or different people entirely? The first time you refer to someone, give their name, title, or function. Then refer to that person the same way each time you mention them. This helps the AHO understand your story.
  6. Make sure that, when you tell the story once, someone not involved in the case can understand exactly what happened: The easier you make if for the AHO to understand your side of the story the more successful you will be. Try out your case presentation on someone in the office who does not know about the case – then ask them questions. If they cannot answer your questions, you need to re-tool your explanation.
  7. You usually do not need to cross-examine: Unless you are an experienced cross-examiner, your questions usually just give the client another chance to tell their story OR your question is not really a question, but is actually testimony. If you want to cross-examine, the rule of thumb is not to ask a question unless:  (1) You know the answer; (2) The witness will give that answer; and (3) the answer will help your case.
  8. You usually do not need to make an opening or closing statement: The AHO knows what the hearing is about and, at the end of the hearing, understands the evidence and your side of the story. If you feel that opening or closing is necessary, keep it short…
  9. Don’t be intimidated by lawyers: Perry Mason does not live in Oklahoma. They almost always know less than you do (see #10). The AHO is not impressed by raised voices, sarcasm, or innuendo.
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  11. Don’t take it personally:  This is very difficult, especially when you are attacked personally. However, it appears unprofessional if you show you are upset, especially if you attack back. This make you look unprofessional to the AHO and may reduce your credibility.

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