Washington LawHelp

How to Petition for Superior Court Review: Administrative Decision Relating to Public Benefits

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
Download Entire Packet with Instructions and Forms Read Online Forms Included in the Packet Related Resources

Download Entire Packet with Instructions and Forms

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Is this packet for me?

Yes, if you already had an administrative hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If you disagree with something the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) or Health Care Authority (HCA) does and have NOT yet had an administrative hearing, use our publication called Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing, available at our web site, www.washingtonlawhelp.org, or from CLEAR or your local legal services office.

*This information relates to DSHS cases like TANF, Food Assistance (food stamps), licensing, and child care; and also HCA cases like Medicaid (including long-term care).


If you disagree with the final administrative decision, you may appeal your case to Superior Court. The appeal is called a "Petition for Review of an Administrative Order." You may file your appeal either in the Superior Court of the county where you live or in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia.

This packet explains when and how to petition the Superior Court for review. It is not an easy process. Do not get discouraged. You may need to read this several times or ask someone about it.

The laws on petitions for judicial review are at RCW 34.05.510 through .598. This packet has forms to use for Petition for Review of an Administrative Order and Declaration of Service.

Do I have to use the administrative process first?

Yes. Before you file a Petition for Review in Superior Court, you must finish the administrative appeals process. If you do not, the Superior Court cannot hear your case.

The administrative process has two steps:

  1. an administrative hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Office of Administrative Hearings AND

  2. a Board of Appeals (BOA) Review. If the ALJ's decision is a "Final Order," skip this step.

If the ALJ's written decision is an "Initial Order," you must appeal to the BOA before you can file in Superior Court. This is confusing, but it is very important. For more information regarding DSHS cases, see WAC 388-02-0217 and 388-02-0600.  For HCA cases, see WAC 182-526-0560 through 182-526-0595. (For all HCA cases, the ALJ's written decision will always be an "Initial Order.") Our publication called Representing Yourself at an Administrative Hearing also has more information.

What is the deadline for filing a Petition for Review?

You must file and serve a Petition for Review within 30 days of the final administrative order. The 30 days starts from the date on the decision, not the date you got it. Below we explain:

  • what the Petition must say

  • how and where to file it

  • who must get copies of the petition (service)

  • how to serve it

What are the rules about Petitions?

Generally, you can only raise issues and arguments in your petition that you raised at the hearing. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including:

  • New facts you could not have discovered before, if you are challenging a DSHS or HCA rule (WAC).

  • You were not notified of the administrative hearing.

For more information about raising new issues, see RCW 34.05.554.

You cannot put new evidence (facts) into the record except in a very few cases. Generally, the Judge reviews only testimony and documents filed in the administrative process.

You can sometimes add new facts if you could not have discovered them earlier, or the judge or DSHS or HCA improperly kept the facts out of the record. If important facts are missing, the court can "remand" (send back) the case to get those facts. For more information on new evidence, see RCW 34.05.562.

*If you are arguing that a DSHS or HCA rule is invalid (no good), you must prove specific reasons for that. See RCW 34.05.570 (2).

The burden is on you to prove your case. The court will change the decision for limited reasons only. Those reasons are in section 6 of the attached Petition for Review form and in RCW 34.05.570 (3).

What should the Petition say?

The Petition must have the following information. We included some of this information on the attached Petition form:

  1. In the caption, you must check the box showing whether you must pay a filing fee in this case. (See "Does it Cost Anything to File the Petition," below.)

  2. Your name and mailing address.

  3. The name and mailing address of the agency whose decision you disagree with.

  4. A statement identifying the decision you are appealing by agency (DSHS or HCA), type (usually "Final Order"), issuing agency ("Board of Appeals" or "Office of Administrative Hearings)," the date the agency issued it, and the docket number (the number on the upper right-hand side of the first page of the order).

  5. Names of the parties in the administrative hearing (usually you and DSHS or HCA).

  6. A statement that the petition is timely filed with the proper court, you have exhausted the administrative remedies, and you are the person aggrieved by the decision you are appealing (already printed on the attached form).

  7. Why you think the decision is wrong. Use the blank lines on the form. If you need more room, write "see attached" in these lines. Then attach an extra sheet titled "Petition, Paragraph 6."

  8. What you are asking the court to do. Examples are:

  • "I ask the court to reverse the administrative decision and grant me TANF benefits without a sanction back to the date DSHS sanctioned me."

  • "I ask the court to reverse the administrative decision and reinstate my TANF benefits back to January 1, 2010."

  • "I ask the court to change the administrative decision and stop DSHS from collecting the overpayment."

*You should type your petition. If you cannot, print neatly.

Attach a copy of your administrative hearing decision. If that decision is an "Initial Order," also attach your Final Order from the BOA.

How do I file the Petition?

Make three copies of your Petition for Review and attachments.

File the original with the Superior Court Clerk. You may file it either in your own county or in Thurston County.

The Clerk will stamp it with a number. Put that number on the three copies, too. Most clerks also have a date stamp you can use on your copies to show when you filed them.

Does it cost anything to file the petition?

There is no charge for filing the petition involving a public assistance program under DSHS or HCA.  RCW 74.08.080(3)

For non-public assistance cases, there is a filing fee.  These types of cases may involve decisions by the Division of Child Support (DCS), eligibility through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), licensing issues, and appeal of Child Protective Services (CPS) or Adult Protective Services (APS) abuse findings.

The filing fee may be anywhere from $36 to $280. It depends on the type of case and county. If you cannot pay the filing fee or paying it would be hard for you, you can file a motion asking the court to waive (not make you pay) the filing fee. Our publication called Filing Fee Waiver has more information. Our do-it-yourself packet called Filing for Waiver of Your Filing Fee has forms and instructions. 

How do I serve the Petition?

If you have a DSHS case, you must serve copies of your petition on DSHS, the Office of the Attorney General, and any other parties.  If you have a HCA case, you must serve copies of your petition on HCA, the Office of the Attorney General, and any other parties.
To serve DSHS, you must deliver a copy of the petition to the DSHS Board of Appeals (BOA). You may hand-deliver the petition or send it by mail that gives proof of receipt.

DSHS BOA's location is:
Office Building 2, First Floor Information, 1115 Washington St. SE, Olympia, Washington 98504-5803.
The phone numbers are (360) 664-6100 or toll free, 1-877-351-0002, or TTY (360) 664-6178. The fax number is 1-360-664-6187.

DSHS BOA's mailing address is:
DSHS Board of Appeals
PO Box 45803
Olympia, WA 98504-5803.

To serve HCA, you must deliver a copy of the petition to the director of HCA and send a copy to the HCA Board of Appeals (BOA). You may hand deliver the petition or send it by mail that gives proof of receipt.

The HCA director's location is:
Health Care Authority
626 8th Avenue S.E.
Olympia, WA 98501

The HCA director's mailing address is:
Health Care Authority
P.O. Box 45502
Olympia, WA 98504-5502

HCA BOA's location is:
626 8th Avenue S.E.
Olympia, Washington

HCA BOA's mailing address is:
P.O. Box 42700
Olympia, WA  98504-2700
The phone number is 1-844-728-5212.  The fax is 360-507-9018.

To serve the Office of the Attorney General and any other parties, send a copy of the Petition for Review by regular mail. You may serve the Office of the Attorney General by hand delivery to: Office of the Attorney General, 7141 Cleanwater Dr. SW, Tumwater, WA 98504.

The mailing address is:
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 40124
Olympia WA 98504-0124

Keep the Post Office's proof that you mailed the envelope.

You must file and serve your Petition for Review of an Administrative Order within thirty (30) days of the date on the final administrative order.

*Whether you serve in person or by mail, DSHS or HCA, and the Attorney General must get the petition by the deadline.

Keep the final copy of the Petition for yourself.

How do I prove that the Petition was served?

SSave the post office receipt(s) showing delivery. They are proof of any documents you serve by mail. For any hand-delivered documents, the person who served them must sign a "Declaration of Personal Service." Use the form in this packet.

What happens after I have filed the Petition?

The Record - In about a month, you will get a copy of the documents and decisions from your administrative hearing and BOA review (if any). There should be information about how to get a copy of a written transcript (a typed-out version of the hearing itself, including any witness testimony). You should get the transcript if you think the facts in the decision are not correct. You may not need the transcript if you agree with the facts as written. If you are low-income, you will not have to pay for the transcript.

The State's Representative - An Assistant Attorney General (AAG) will represent DSHS or HCA. The AAG will send you a "Notice of Appearance" with his/her name, address, and phone number. After you get this notice of appearance, you must send this AAG a copy of any further papers you file with the court. This is your first chance to try and settle the case with the state's lawyer (the AAG.) Call her/him and talk about why you think the administrative decision is wrong. The AAG might contact you as well. The AAG represents DSHS or HCA. S/he cannot give you legal advice.

Setting Your Case for Trial - Next, you need to set (schedule) your case for a hearing in the Superior Court so a judge can hear and decide the case. Every county does this differently. Contact the Clerk's Office of the Superior Court where you filed your case. Ask how to set a Petition for Review case for trial. The paper you need to fill out will probably be called a "Note (or Notice) for Trial Setting." The Clerk will have the right form. You need to fill out the form and make two copies. File the original with the Court Clerk.  Send a copy to the AAG (and any other parties). Keep a copy for yourself.

Settlement Negotiations - You may contact the AAG to try to settle your case before or after setting it for trial. If you get a settlement you are happy with, get the agreement in writing, signed by you, the AAG, and any other parties, and filed in the court file. The written agreement should state that the matter is resolved and that the judge should dismiss your case.

The Trial - If you are unable to settle your case, it will go to trial (unless you decide to dismiss it). You need to go to the court on the scheduled date and tell the judge why you think you should get the relief you have asked for. ("What is in the Petition?" #7 has examples.) The burden is on you to prove DSHS or HCA was wrong. If you can, review the laws that apply to your case, especially RCW 34.05.570 (1) and (3). Tell the judge why you believe the law and/or rules support your claim. You cannot bring witnesses or introduce new evidence. The judge will base the decision on the evidence presented at the administrative hearing by both you and DSHS or HCA and the reasons you have given the judge why you believe you should win.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems. 

    • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. 

    • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). You can also get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website at www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

    • Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.

Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired callers can call CLEAR or 211 using the relay service of their choice.

211 and CLEAR will conference in interpreters when needed at no cost to callers. 

Free legal education publications, videos and self-help packets covering many legal issues are available at www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

Some lawyers offer a free consultation and advertise this in the yellow pages of your local phone book. Sometimes lawyers will take these types of cases because if they win the case they can get attorneys' fees from the losing party (the State).



This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of
September 2016.

© 2016 Northwest Justice Project. 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and individuals for non-commercial use only.)

Forms Included in the Packet

Last Review and Update: Sep 01, 2016
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