Wednesday, August 31, 2016

admin. law - credibility - determination on written record

Long Run Timber Co. v. DCNR – Cmwlth. Court – August 30, 2016

Credibility determinations may properly be made by the administrative adjudicators from reading a transcript.  Administrative agencies frequently use a system where a hearing examiner takes the evidence, but the ultimate fact-finder is the board or commission. Cavanaugh v. Fayette Cnty. Zoning Hearing Bd., 700 A.2d 1353, 1355-56 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1997); Kramer v. Dep’t of Ins., 654 A.2d 203, 206 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995).

Thus, a board or commission has the power to make findings of fact solely on its review of the record. Kramer, 654 A.2d at 206. Such a process does not deny a litigant any due process rights. R. v. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 636 A.2d 142, 145 (Pa. 1994). Here, all of the Board members reviewed the full record from the two-day hearing before making the decision to dismiss the Complaint. They were acting within their authority when they made their credibility determinations, and such determinations 21 are not reviewable by this Court. Moreover, the bases on which the Board rejected appellant’s proferred evidence are supported by substantial evidence.

As with other administrative agencies, all determinations of witness credibility and evidentiary weight are solely within the province of the Board. Pa. Game Comm’n v. K.D. Miller Lumber Co., Inc., 654 A.2d 6, 9-10 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994). “[I]t is not the function of this court to judge the weight and credibility of the evidence given before an administrative agency.” Id. at 10.  Administrative agencies frequently make credibility determinations on records made before a hearing officer or administrative law judge. Cavanaugh, 700 A.2d at 1355-56; Kramer, 654 A.2d at 206.