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Quasi-judicial refers to actions by a group of people, or perhaps one authorized individual, that is charged with determining facts, holding hearings, and possibly even issuing subpoenas for individuals. The goal is often to come to understanding as to the facts of a case and make a judgment call regarding possible outcomes or consequences. The term implies that this body is not routinely responsible for holding such proceedings and often may have other duties.
One example of such a body is a city council that may choose to enforce some of its own ordinances, especially those with a civil penalty component. The council may assess fines or even pull or suspend a business license. If the city council acts as a quasi-judicial body, it may be required to hold hearings that are very similar to courtroom proceedings from time to time. The introduction of evidence and calling witnesses are a couple of the things that may be done during these hearings.
Typically, the quasi-judicial body can make a decision that then becomes legally binding, unless appealed. At the point where an appeal takes place, the case often moves into a traditional court system. The judge, in such cases, may not be in the role of the assessing the facts of the case in particular, but rather simply be charged with determining whether the quasi-judicial entity made a decision it had the authority to make, and was within the confines of the law and any administrative rules.
In nearly all cases, the punishment a quasi-judicial body may impose is extremely limited, especially in the United States. Most of the time, the penalty cannot include incarceration. As in the case of a city council or commission, all it may be able to do is simply rescind the privileges it has already extended. This is why business licenses and permits may be a prime target for such bodies.
If a suitable remedy cannot be found by using a quasi-judicial system, the alternative is to seek a remedy in a full court. This may happen if the issues are difficult, and the full authority of the law is needed to obtain facts and evidence. The issues may also be pushed into the court system if the individual at fault does not obey or pay the penalties. In such cases, a court could compel the individual to comply.
Any case that could be a violation of the law could still be heard in a traditional court setting, if the quasi-judicial body decides not to act. The quasi-judicial body is not a court and therefore there is no double jeopardy protection. In many cases, it may be in the best interest of the local body to keep the issue out of the court system. That way, any fines or other penalties stay within the local community for that community's benefit.
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