Chapter 4

Introduction to Contested Cases and the Office of Administrative Hearings

4.2 Right to a Hearing Arising from Statute or Rule

Download a PDF of Section 4.2

Many substantive statutes under which state agencies operate specifically create the right to a contested case hearing under chapter 14. The right to a contested case hearing may also be created by a state agency rule.[1] Where a right to a hearing is created by statute or rule but without specific reference to chapter 14, the statute or rule is usually interpreted to require a contested case pursuant to the APA.[2] The right to a hearing may also be implied, even though it is not specifically stated in an agency’s statute. The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that a right to a contested case hearing was implied by an examination of the purpose of an environmental act.[3] The court noted that chapter 14 hearings were granted in other sections of the act and that there was a strong public demand for a review of the environmental questions involved.[4]

However, even where a statute or rule specifically creates a right to a contested case hearing, there may be limitations on that right. For example, the Minnesota Supreme Court has held that where a statute only required a contested case hearing when a “significant issue” was unresolved and the petitioner failed to contest the issue or request a contested case hearing, no contested case hearing was required.[5] Likewise, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that challengers to a permit issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency were not entitled to a contested case hearing where they failed to raise material fact issues that would aid the agency in its decision.[6] The court held that the burden of demonstrating the existence of material facts is on the petitioners.[7]

In In re Hibbing Taconite Co.,[8] the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that the Pollution Control Agency’s denial of a contested case hearing was error where it was established that specific facts needed to be developed concerning potential long-term pollution problems and the financial viability of a party. Similarly, where a cooperative electric power association raised issues of material fact regarding potential duplication of services and safety hazards with city’s municipal electric utility, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that a contested case hearing was necessary to resolve these concerns.[9]

Even where there is no statutory rule or constitutional right to a hearing, an agency may choose to provide a hearing. The respondent does not acquire the right to judicial review under the APA simply because a “gratuitous hearing” was granted.[10] The right to a contested case hearing may also arise by contractual means such as a collective bargaining agreement or a federal court order.


[1] See In re N. States Power Co., 676 N.W.2d 326, 336 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004)..

[2] Minn. Pub. Interest Research Group v. Minn. Envtl. Quality Council, 306 Minn. 370, 380-81, 237 N.W.2d 375, 381-82 (1975) (concluding that a contested case hearing is implied by purpose of statute requiring environmental impact statement); cf. N. States Power, 676 N.W.2d at 332-35 (stating that utilities-regulation statutes do not imply such a right to a hearing ).

[3] Minn. Pub. Interest Research Group, 306 Minn. at 376, 237 N.W.2d at 379. But see Minn. Ctr. for Envtl. Advocacy v. Minn. Pollution Control Agency, 660 N.W.2d 427, 434-35 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003) (interpreting the federal Clean Water Act’s public hearing requirement to require public notice and comment on each city’s plan for discharge of storm water rather than just one hearing on a general permit covering all cities); M.T. Props., Inc. v. Alexander, 433 N.W.2d 886, 891 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988) (concluding that a hearing requirement was not implied by environmental protection measures in pipeline construction statute)

[4] Minnesota Pub. Interest Research Group, 306 Minn. at 378-80, 237 N.W.2d at 380-81.

[5] Henry v. Minn. Pub. Utils. Comm’n., 392 N.W.2d 209, 214-15 (Minn. 1986); see also Tharalson v. Hennepin Parks, 551 N.W.2d 510, 512-13 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996) (concluding that a six year statute of limitations applied to bar veterans’ claims for enforcement of Veterans Preference Act rights to hearing on merits of discharge).

[6] In re NSP Red Wing Ash Disposal Facility, 421 N.W.2d 398, 404 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988).

[7] Id.

[8] 431 N.W.2d 885, 891-92 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988).

[9] In re People’s Coop. Power Ass’n, 447 N.W.2d 11, 13 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989)(); see also In re City of Owatonna’s NPDES/SDS Proposed Permit Reissuance for Discharge of Treated Wastewater, 672 N.W.2d 921, 928-30 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004) (concluding that expert disagreement on effect of phosphorus discharge of wastewater treatment plants created a material issue of fact); In re Winona Cnty. Mun. Solid Waste Incinerator, 442 N.W.2d 344, 349 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989) concluding that a contested case hearing was required where specific issues of material fact regarding feasible alternatives to incinerator were raised), rev’d on other grounds sub nom. City of Winona v. Minn. Pollution Control Agency, 449 N.W.2d 441 (Minn. 1990). But see In re Northern States Power, 676 N.W.2d 326, 336 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004) (concluding that there were no contested material facts, which are required by PUC rule before a hearing is mandated).

[10] Setty v. Minn. State Coll. Bd., 305 Minn. 495, 497, 235 N.W.2d 594, 595-96 (1975).