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Could someone please rephrase this for me, because every time I read it I get tangled up:

According to the Second Circuit, there is no principle of administrative law which, absent a disagreement between a hearing officer and reviewing agency over demeanor evidence, obviates the need for deference to an agency's final decision where such deference is otherwise appropriate. (http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1214593.html)

I don't need you to explain the technical terms, just simplify the text around the technical terms. Let's start with getting rid of "absent."

  • Absent, as it is used here, merely means "in the absence of". – WS2 Jun 3 '17 at 10:05
  • There is no law that says you can ignore an agency's final decision (where that final decision is otherwise appropriate), unless there's a disagreement about the evidence used to make that final decision (that is, a dispute between that agency and a hearing officer). – Dan Bron Jun 3 '17 at 10:08
  • @WS2 - I understood the use of absent. But it was one of the things that was making the sentence ridiculously complex. – aparente001 Jun 4 '17 at 2:57
  • @DanBron - That was good. I can understand it, and when I compare closely, it maps exactly to the original. Do you want to write an answer? – aparente001 Jun 4 '17 at 2:59
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Apologies for the weak resolution, but below is what sentence-diagramming software yielded from a simplified version of that sentence.

In short, I would describe the phrase as this:

According to the court, there is nothing that overrules an agency's decision except for [absent] when there is a disagreement between a hearing officer and a reviewing agency.

A more full version with the relevant portions in bold:

According to the Second Circuit court, there is no principle of administrative law which, absent a disagreement between a hearing officer and reviewing agency over demeanor evidence, obviates [removes] the need for deference to an agency's final decision where such deference is otherwise appropriate.

Condensed:

According to the court, there is no principle of administrative law which, absent a disagreement (over demeanor evidence), removes the authority of an agency's decision where appropriate.

Agency in that case is used twice and is ambiguous, so the full meaning may only be known by reading a wider portion of the original text.

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  • Could you do it without changing so much of the original terminology? For example, "demeanor evidence" should stay in, if possible. Thank you. – aparente001 Jun 3 '17 at 4:50
  • @aparente001 my first parse was not exactly accurate, please see the updated answer. – John TerMaat Jun 3 '17 at 5:01
  • I'm just too stupid, I'm still not getting it. – aparente001 Jun 3 '17 at 5:04
  • @aparente001 it's a complicated sentence. I edited my answer again, take a look. – John TerMaat Jun 3 '17 at 5:07
  • My simple take: ~Unless there is a disagreement about the evidence, there isn't any principle to let a court overrule an agencies decision about things that agency has power over.~ NOW explaining how I got there is beyond my communication skills. – Tom22 Jun 3 '17 at 5:11
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Thanks to your help I have a proposal:

Unless perhaps there was a disagreement between the review officer and the hearing officer over demeanor evidence, there's no reason not to defer to a final decision (i.e. the review officer's decision).

I should explain that the first decision that gets made is made by the hearing officer. Then, if that decision gets appealed, there is a second decision by the review officer (review agency). If there's another appeal, this time it's decided by a court.

I think "demeanor evidence" refers to the fact that the review officer only reviews the record (transcript, exhibits, closing arguments), but doesn't bring the witnesses in to testify again. That could give the hearing officer an advantage, in being able to see and hear the witness's demeanor. In this case, it might make sense to give deference to the hearing officer.

  • I think you nailed it. – John TerMaat Jun 3 '17 at 5:19
  • Oh my god why do they write these convoluted sentences. – aparente001 Jun 3 '17 at 5:19

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