Credibility Evaluation to Allow Admission of Inadmissible Evidence
In addition to possessing discretion to allow admission of otherwise inadmissible evidence, the administrative tribunal also assesses credibility.
The tribunal hears witnesses' live testimony and is in the best position to decide the issue of credibility.
In an agency review involving a two-tier level of scrutiny, as here, where the Dealers' Office decision is reviewed by the Department, it is the Dealers' Office which "hears testimonial and documentary evidence from all affected parties." See, Environmental Scientific Corp. V. Durfee, 621 A.2d 200 (R.I. 1993).
Accordingly, this Court affords considerable deference to the fact finding of the Dealers' Office which was "privileged personally to hear or witness the broad spectrum of information that entered the widest end of the funnel." Id. at 208. Accordingly,
"when credibility evaluations are implicated, the Supreme Court has imposed a standard of review upon the appellate division that requires it to defer to the evidentiary findings of the trial judge. Before disturbing findings based on credibility determinations, the appellate division must first find that the trial judge was clearly wrong."
Id. at 206. Although the administrative tribunal need not explain in detail how much weight was given to different pieces of evidence, a "logical bridge" must be built between the evidence presented and the conclusion reached by the tribunal. Koch, Administrative Law and Practice, 5.64(1) at 226.