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Learn about appeals from administrative agency decisions under General Laws c.30A

You may appeal a decision of a state agency by filing a complaint for judicial review, but only after first exhausting the review process offered within the agency itself.

30A Appeal

An appeal from an administrative agency decision, also referred to as a “30A appeal,” or a request for “judicial review of an administrative agency decision,” is what you file in the Superior Court when you want a judge to review a final decision made by a state agency. The decisions that a judge can review under 30A must have been made by a state agency in an “adjudicatory proceeding.” 

As described in the statute G.L. c. 30A, § 14 , the review is conducted by the judge, without a jury, and is limited to the facts that were on the record during the administrative hearing. Typically, the judge does not hear testimony or consider new evidence, and reviews only what happened at the administrative hearing by looking at the administrative record. If you request a transcript of the hearing, the judge can review the transcript as well. 

Decisions that can be appealed under 30A

The type of agency decisions that can be reviewed by the Superior Court is generally established by the statute or regulation governing a specific case. For example, the Superior Court has authority to review decisions from the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Board of Appeal of Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and the MassHealth Board of Hearings. 

Please note:

  • An appeal from a decision of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) can be filed in the Superior Court or Housing Court. 
  • The Superior Court does not have authority to review a decision of the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). These appeals must be filed in the District Court. 
  • Since municipalities, local bodies, and commissions are not “agencies” within the meaning of G.L. c. 30A, the 30A appeal process does not apply. There may be other ways to seek review of a decision by these authorities. The Trial Court Law Libraries have information about the laws that govern different appeals processes. 

Considerations when deciding to appeal

Proceedings for judicial review of an agency decision are filed in the Superior Court. If you decide to file an administrative agency appeal, please remember that you must follow many procedural requirements. For example, in addition to filing and serving a complaint to start the lawsuit, you will have the burden of writing, serving, and filing a motion and written memorandum explaining why the agency decision should be modified or reversed. In addition, depending on the reason for your appeal, you may be required to request and pay for a transcript of the administrative agency hearing. See Superior Court Standing Order 1-96 for more information about transcripts and other requirements. If you make a procedural mistake, the judge may not have an opportunity to hear the merits of your case. For example, if either party fails to meet certain filing deadlines, the case may end without a hearing. 

See Legal Assistance for information on hiring a lawyer or obtaining other legal help. 

Most legal aid offices do not assist with filing administrative appeals. However, you may want to contact your local legal aid office to see if you are eligible for its services in this instance. You can also contact your local Bar Association for a referral. It may be able to refer you to a pro bono or free attorney, but most likely it will be able to refer you to an attorney whose services you must pay for. If you are low-income, you may want to ask about attorneys that charge reduced rates or charge on a sliding scale. Go to the Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder for more information on these services.

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