THE INFLUENCE OF ORAL HEARINGS ON OUTCOMES
AN EMPIRICAL STUDY
What would happen if one could take the exact same claim for a statutory benefit and have it adjudicated multiple times by a large number of different appeals tribunal adjudicative panels, some of whom are asked to decide the case on the basis of a written “hearing” only, and some of whom are asked to decide the case with the benefit of both the written submissions and an oral hearing?
What would that tell us about the importance of oral hearings?
What it did tell the authors of an empirical study in which 66 different tribunal panels were indeed asked to adjudicate the exact same claim – a claim for a disability benefit – is that claimants are 2.5 times more likely to have their claims approved when the decision is made after an oral hearing than when it is based on written submissions alone.
This is one of the conclusions of an in-depth empirical study of tribunal decision-making in the U.K. by Professors Dame Hazel Genn and Cheryl Thomas of the UCL Judicial Institute, UCL Faculty of Laws, Bentham House, London U.K, with funding from the Nuffield Foundation.
The “final” report of that study – a report that is labeled a “Discussion Paper” and appears to have been published in 2013 may be found at:
There are many administrative justice lessons to be learned from this remarkable study other than the importance of oral hearings, not least of which, perhaps, is the one to be learned from the fact that for three years the report of this study appears to have remained largely unknown in Canadian administrative justice circles, notwithstanding its important relevance to many current, Canadian justice issues.
I will address the further lessons later.