Law Offices of John Michael Jensen

Administrative Hearings

Many of the larger California state agencies are subject to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Under the APA, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the State Office of Administrative Hearings initially hears the administrative dispute.

In the process, we write briefs, elicit testimony, examine witnesses, and produce a record, laying the groundwork facts, arguments, and issues for the current dispute. In any appeal, the administrative process is an important foundation to the resolution of many disputes.

John Michael Jensen has successfully resolved issues involving California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Department of Health Services, and state and local government entities.

In formal administrative proceedings involving the state government, issues involving statutory or contractual interpretation usually arise.

Administrative Hearing Process

The administrative hearing process in California is a key component of the regulatory enforcement and compliance system. It allows for disputes involving regulatory agencies and the individuals or entities they regulate to be resolved without going to court. This process is governed by the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which sets out the procedures for administrative hearings.

Here’s an overview of the process under the APA:

  1. Initiation of the Process:
    • The process usually starts when an agency takes action or intends to take action against a party, such as issuing a citation, denying a permit, or seeking to discipline a licensee.
    • The individual or entity (respondent) receives a notice of the action, which includes a statement of issues, the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held, and a statement of the legal and factual basis for the action.
  2. Pre-Hearing Procedures:
    • The respondent may have the opportunity to file a notice of defense and engage in discovery, similar to the pre-trial process in civil litigation, though discovery is often more limited in administrative proceedings.
    • Settlement discussions or negotiations may take place in an attempt to resolve the issue without a formal hearing.
  3. The Hearing:
    • Administrative hearings are generally less formal than court trials. They are presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) or, in some cases, by a panel or an individual from within the agency.
    • The hearing allows both parties to present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. The rules of evidence are often more relaxed compared to a courtroom setting.
    • The ALJ has the power to issue subpoenas, rule on evidence, and make decisions on the record.
  4. Decision:
    • After the hearing, the ALJ issues a proposed decision that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law. For some agencies, this proposed decision is final unless the agency decides to review it.
    • In other cases, the proposed decision is submitted to the agency’s decision-making body, which can adopt, modify, or reject the ALJ’s decision or return it for further consideration.
  5. Post-Hearing Procedures:
    • Parties may file exceptions to the ALJ’s proposed decision and have the opportunity to present oral and written arguments to the agency’s decision-making body.
    • The final decision of the agency can typically be appealed to the Superior Court through a petition for writ of administrative mandamus.

Typical Matters Heard in Administrative Hearings:

  • Professional Licensing: Disputes regarding the issuance, renewal, or discipline of professional licenses, such as for physicians, nurses, real estate agents, and lawyers.
  • Environmental Regulations: Issues concerning compliance with environmental standards and permits, including air and water quality, and waste management.
  • Employment Disputes: Matters involving state employees and their employment, including disciplinary actions and dismissals.
  • Public Benefits: Disputes over the provision of social services and benefits, such as welfare, unemployment insurance, and public health programs.
  • Business Regulation: Enforcement actions concerning business operations, such as compliance with health and safety regulations.
  • Consumer Protection: Cases involving consumer rights and protection, including fraud investigations and unfair business practices.

Who is Involved:

  • Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): A neutral decision-maker who conducts the hearing.
  • Agency Representatives: Attorneys or other officials representing the regulatory agency.
  • Respondent (or Applicant): The individual or entity that is subject to the regulatory action or is seeking a benefit from the agency.
  • Witnesses: Individuals who provide testimony related to the matters at hand.
  • Legal Counsel: Attorneys representing the interests of the respondent or applicant.

An example would be a physician facing disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California due to alleged misconduct. The administrative hearing process would be used to determine whether the physician violated medical standards and what the consequences might be.

The administrative hearing process serves as a critical mechanism for upholding regulatory standards and protecting public interests while also ensuring that the rights of individuals and businesses are respected.