Office of Administrative Hearings

Background

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With water rights in California historically involving complex, often contentious issues, the state legislature in 2018 created the Administrative Hearings Office, a separate unit within the State Water Resources Control Board to adjudicate most water rights enforcement proceedings.

Assembly Bill 747 transferred the responsibility of hearing specified enforcement actions from State Water Board members to the Presiding Hearing Officer and attorneys in the new office. Alan Lilly, a veteran water rights and environmental attorney, was appointed the first Presiding Hearing Officer in September 2019. Similar to the Office of the Delta Watermaster, the Administrative Hearings Office is independent of the Division of Water Rights, and the Presiding Officer is appointed by the five members.

The new office is designed to improve and expedite the decision-making process involving water right enforcement matters. Previously, hearings could last weeks and take years to resolve, both because of the complexity of the issues and the Board members’ competing scheduling interests. Among its duties, the Board establishes regulatory standards for drinking water, water quality and water rights; evaluates applications for drinking water and water right permits; and makes funding decisions for the financial assistance programs.

Leadership

Alan Lilly

Alan Lilly

Director

Office of Administrative Hearings

Alan Lilly, a longtime water rights and environmental attorney, on September 18 was appointed the first Presiding Officer for the new Administrative Hearings Office within the State Water Resources Control Board.

Lilly’s selection comes almost a year after the state legislature (Assembly Bill 747) created the independent office to adjudicate most water right enforcement proceedings, subject to review by the five-member State Water Board. Previously, Board members heard and decided all cases involving water right enforcement actions.

“This was an opportunity to shift from being an advocate to a decisionmaker,” Lilly said. “I started my law career clerking for a judge, and I enjoyed the court process. I now am looking forward to working as a decisionmaker in this new office.”

An attorney for 38 years, Lilly offers a unique combination of legal and scientific expertise. For the past three decades, he practiced with a Sacramento law firm, representing public agencies and private parties in various matters before the courts and the State Board, and in contract negotiations and related proceedings, involving the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the federal and California Endangered Specials Acts. The issues involved surface water, groundwater, water service, water quality, environmental and eminent domain issues. Before joining the law firm, Lilly was a law clerk for a United States District Court Judge in Colorado and a Deputy Attorney General in California.

Lilly, who maintains an avid interest in science, earned Bachelors’ degrees in physics and biology from UC Santa Cruz and a Masters’ degree in physics and Juris Doctorate degree from UC Berkeley. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, boating and the outdoors.