108. How should I present my case at the hearing?
The hearing is your last chance to make sure DTA has the facts supporting your position, including any documents.
- Try to get a legal advocate to represent you at the hearing or give you advice about representing yourself. 106 C.M.R. § 343.150. See Appendix E for a list of legal services offices. You can also bring a friend or relative for support. 106 C.M.R. § 367.350.
- Bring any proof you have. This can include proof you did not have before or never sent to DTA. 106 C.M.R. §§ 343.410, 343.500(A), 367.400(F). You or your advocate can ask DTA to send you papers and information from your file before the hearing. 106 C.M.R. § 343.340. If your hearing is being conducted by telephone or video, you should insist on an opportunity to fax any follow up documents to the hearing officer.
- You can bring witnesses. You can also get a paper ordering a witness to come to your hearing; this paper is called a “subpoena.” 106 C.M.R. § 343.360. Talk with a legal advocate about how to do this.
Face-to face hearings and most telephone hearings take place at your local DTA office in a separate room. Only the people who need to be there are allowed in—the DTA representative, you, your representative (if any), any witnesses, and the hearing officer. Everyone must testify under “oath or affirmation.” The hearing is tape-recorded. 106 C.M.R. §§ 343.450, 343.500, 343.550.
If you believe that DTA is using evidence that is unfair or unreliable—for example, an accusation from an unidentified person—tell the hearing officer that you “object.” Objecting may make the hearing officer think twice about relying on this information. Also, if you lose the hearing and appeal to court, the court can consider whether the hearing officer made a mistake by admitting the evidence you objected to.
You have a right to see any information in your DTA case record. The DTA case record includes copies of applications and recertifications, DTA notices, verifications DTA got from you, case narratives (notes from workers) and actions related to the fair hearing process. 106 CMR § 360.300.
If DTA schedules you for a telephone and you want a face-to-face hearing, call the Division of Hearings right away, (617) 348-5321 or (800) 882-2017, and say you want a face-to-face hearing. If DTA won’t give you a face-to-face hearing, be sure to say on the record at the hearing that you want a face-to-face hearing.
The hearing officer must take evidence and decide certain issues “de novo” (anew) based on what is presented at the hearing. See Question 104.