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What Is an Administrative Tribunal?

By R. Kimball
Updated May 17, 2024
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An administrative tribunal is a person or institution that determines claims or disputes. Tribunals are established by governments or government agencies to review disputes that should not be a part of the jurisdiction’s regular court system. Each jurisdiction and agency establishes its tribunals in a manner appropriate for the jurisdiction or agency, although most tribunals function in a similar manner. The word tribunal is used in the description of these decision-making bodies to make it clear that they are not a part of the courts of normal jurisdiction.

The procedure used in most jurisdictions for an administrative tribunal is more casual than that used in the regular court systems. Some cases before a tribunal require that a party have legal representation, although most tribunals do not require legal counsel. The rules of evidence are not as strict as those of a normal court proceeding. The proceedings themselves are less formal than a court proceeding, but most are completed under oath and are recorded for future use.

The reason for creating an administrative tribunal is usually to resolve a dispute between an individual and a governmental department or agency. These types of claims might be a claim to a social program or an immigration appeal. Administrative judges are usually experts on the issues being determined in the specific tribunal. Using experts helps the tribunal work through a large number of decisions in a shorter time and keeps these cases outside the regular court system. Normally, it costs less to process a dispute through a tribunal than in the ordinary court system.

These tribunals may be permanent or might be created to deal with a specific set of issues. After a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood, it might be necessary for a given jurisdiction to create a new tribunal to work through cases brought on by the natural disaster. Once all of the cases created by the natural disaster are completed, the administrative tribunal may be dissolved. Occasionally, international tribunals are temporarily formed to adjudicate human rights violations.

The process for filling the tribunal with administrative law judges or other decision-making individuals varies by jurisdiction and administrative tribunal. These tribunals generally work at an arm’s length from the government itself and are expected to work in a non-partisan manner. Tribunal decisions may or may not be appealed, based upon the regulations that created the tribunal itself.

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