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Administrative Appeals


CaseTennessee Department of Correction v. David Pressley

Issue:  Does the State or the Employee have the burden of proof in an administrative employment appeal?

Facts:  State Employee filed administrative appeal challenging his termination. The Board of Appeals, putting the burden of proof on the State, reduced his termination to a suspension. On appeal, the chancery court ruled that the burden of proof should have been on the Employee.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court reversed the chancery court, holding that the Board properly allocated the burden to the State. The court noted that the question was one of first impression under the 2012 TEAM Act, which does not expressly address this issue. The Uniform Rules for administrative hearings provide that the party who initiated the proceedings usually bears the burden of proof, but also that the burden of proof is typically on “the party who seeks to change the present state of affairs.” Looking to similar cases, the intermediate court determined that State employees have a property right to their employment that is protected by due process, which necessitates the State bearing the ultimate burden of proof.

Review Granted:  September 23, 2016.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the supreme court is likely to affirm for the reasons offered by the trial court and impose the burden of proof on the State. The burden should not change between parties at each step in the process.