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Learn about transcripts in administrative appeals

Find out when you need transcripts and how to get them when you’re appealing agency decisions to the court.

When you file a case asking a court to overturn or change a state or local agency’s decision, your case is called an administrative appeal. It may also be called a complaint for judicial review or, in the case of a state agency, a 30A appeal. 

Once you’ve filed your administrative appeal in court, the agency will prepare the administrative record, which includes all the documents that were a part of the agency hearings. The administrative record doesn’t automatically include a transcript of testimony and arguments at the agency’s hearing. It’s your responsibility to request a transcript if you need one for your case. Superior Court rules require that you request a transcript within 30 days after you serve the complaint. For more information, see Superior Court Standing Order 1-96

When you need a transcript

Not all administrative appeals under G. L. c. 30A, § 14(7) require a transcript. You must request a transcript if your appeal argues that: 

  • The agency’s decision isn’t supported by substantial evidence; 
  • The agency’s decision is arbitrary or capricious; and/or 
  • The agency abused its discretion when making the decision

How to get a transcript

The agency is supposed to send a letter to explain how to get a transcript of the hearing. If you didn’t get that information, contact the agency right away and request a transcript. Don’t wait for the agency’s letter, because it’s your responsibility to order the transcript before the deadline. For most agencies, you must ask the agency to give you the recording of your administrative hearing. Once you have the recording, contact a transcriber to get the recording transcribed. Use a transcriber recommended by the agency, or choose from the list of court-approved transcribers.

Ask transcribers how much they charge for transcriptions before you pick one. Once you’ve chosen a transcriber, send the audio recordings from your hearing to that company. The transcriber will charge you for the transcript, and may charge you an additional price for any extra copies.

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What to do if you can't afford a transcript

Under G.L. c. 261, § 27A-G, if you can’t pay for court fees and costs, you may be able to have the state pay for them if you file an Affidavit of Indigency and Request for a Waiver, Substitution or State Payment of Fees & Costs. See Indigency (Waiver of Fees) to learn more about waiving court fees. The fees that the court may waive or pay for you include ‘normal fees,’ such as the filing fee for filing your appeal, and may also include ‘extra fees,’ such as the cost of transcripts of your administrative hearing. Make sure you give a clear description of the fees you’re asking the court to pay. For example, if you want a copy of the transcript for the court and a copy for yourself, make sure to ask the court to pay for 2 copies of the transcript. 

If the court decides that you’re indigent, the court may approve your request to have transcripts paid for. The court won’t decide to pay for the transcripts in every case. If the court will be paying for the transcript, you must use a court-approved transcriber from the list of court-approved transcribers.

The transcriber will either send you a bill, or, if the court approves, they will send the bill directly to the court. If the court has agreed to pay for transcripts but you still receive a bill from the transcriber, please give it to the court, so the court can pay it.

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