The purpose of administrative hearings is to unburden the courts with matters that require specialized knowledge. These matters are handled by the administrative agencies on a regular basis, and must first go through an administrative agency before going to court. Typically, administrative litigation concerns a hearing before a non-judicial officer, or a series of appeals rising through the agency's own dispute resolution process. These proceedings are often less formal than going to court, and have lower standards for procedural and evidentiary requirements.
Despite the less formal appearance of an administrative hearing, it is important for a respondent (person or business being subjected to an administrative hearing) to know the applicable law, procedural rules, and possible grounds for appeal. A respondent may be subjected to significant fines, suspension or revocation of licenses, or deprivation of benefits that she relies on.
Some typical Virginia administrative agency dispute resolution departments include: