Appealing an Administrative Agency Decision

 This webpage provides information for state court proceedings only. It does not include information about appealing a decision made by a federal administrative agency like the Social Security Administration.


What is an administrative appeal?

An administrative appeal is a review by the court of the final decision of a state or local government agency, board or commission. Depending on a couple of things, the review is either a completely new hearing (called a trial de novo), or a review of legal errors you believe the agency made in its decision.


Who can appeal

Any party to an administrative hearing who believes that the agency applied the law incorrectly, and/or that the decision was not supported by the evidence presented, may file an appeal.


When you can appeal

Usually an appeal to the state court may be filed only after all administrative proceedings have been completed, including any available appeal or review proceedings within the agency. This is sometimes called "exhausting all administrative remedies."

In some cases Utah law does not require a person to exhaust administrative remedies. In some situations the court may excuse a person from exhausting all administrative remedies if:

  • the administrative remedies are inadequate, or
  • exhaustion of remedies would result in irreparable harm that outweighs the public benefit of exhausting all remedies.

Utah Code Section 63G-4-401(2)(a) and (b).

In most cases, a petition for judicial review of a final administrative action must be filed within 30 days after the final order is issued.


Formal vs. informal administrative proceedings

Utah Code Section 63G-4-202 requires administrative agencies to designate their proceedings as either formal or informal following criteria of the statute. If the agency does not specify one or the other, the proceeding is deemed to be formal.

The designation of formal or informal affects how the proceedings are conducted and what rules apply. See Utah Code Sections 63G-4-203 through 209 for more information about the rules governing formal and informal proceedings.

Whether the proceeding was formal or informal also affects which court handles the appeal of the agency decision.


Where to file the appeal

Figuring out which court can hear the appeal from an administrative agency proceeding is often difficult and confusing. The best source of information is the letter you receive from the agency that comes with its decision. Many agencies will tell you which court can hear your appeal and how much time you have to file the appeal. Sometimes you can find that information on an agency's website.

An appeal of an agency decision from an informal proceeding is a new hearing (called a de novo review) in the district or juvenile court. Utah Code Section 63G-4-402(2) governs the content of complaint.

An appeal of an agency decision from a formal proceeding goes to either the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. This type of appeal only examines specific issues in the agency proceeding you assert were legally incorrect. See the appellate court guides for filing an administrative appeal for information and forms.


What appeals are handled by which court

This list is not comprehensive.

District Court

Utah Code Section 63G-4-402 and Section 78A-5-102

  • May review final agency actions in informal proceedings
  • Small claims cases from the justice court
  • Municipal ordinance appeals under Utah Code Section 10-3-703.7

Juvenile Court

Utah Code Section 63G-4-402(1)(a)(i)-(iii) and Section 78A-6-103((1)(p)

  • Child support if determined administratively under Utah Code Section 78A-6-1106
  • Substantiated findings of abuse or neglect by Division of Child and Family Services after an evidentiary hearing (See the Forms section below)

Court of Appeals

Utah Code Section 63G-4-403 and Section 78A-4-103

Appeal from formal proceedings of

Supreme Court

Utah Code Section 63G-4-403 and Section 78A-3-102

Appeal of formal proceedings of

Final orders and decrees of the district court review of informal adjudicative proceedings of the above-listed agencies


Venue for Appeals to the District Court

If the district court is the proper court to review the administrative agency's decision, you must next figure out which district court to file in. This is called "venue."

Choosing the proper venue can be challenging. You should first look to agency's governing statutes to see if they specify the proper venue.

For example, the governing statute for the driver license division says that the proper venue is in the district court in the county where the offense occurred, or, if the person does not live in Utah, in either Salt Lake County or the county where the offense occurred. Utah Code Section 53-3-224(2)(a) and (b).  

If the agency does not have a statute that specifies the venue for an appeal, Utah Code Section 63G-4-402(1)(b) applies. It says that in that case, venue is in the county where the petitioner resides or maintains their principal place of business.


What the appellate court can do

Regardless of whether you are appealing an informal decision to the district court, or a formal decision to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, Utah Code Section 63G-4-404 describes what kind of relief the appellate court can grant.

The appellate court may:

  • affirm (agree with) the agency decision,
  • remand (send the case back for additional action by the agency),
  • reverse the decision made by the agency, or
  • dismiss your appeal.



Some forms may not apply in all cases. Use the Checklist to help you understand and complete the forms. The Checklist is not filed with the court or served on the other party.

Forms to appeal an administrative agency decision to the district court

Forms to request the juvenile court to order the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to remove a person's name from the Licensing Database

The Licensing Database lists people who have been found by DCFS to have committed severe abuse or neglect of a child

  • 1101XX

Forms to appeal an administrative agency decision to the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court

  • Pro Se Guide: Petition for Writ of Review (Agency Review) - PDF