The same licensing agencies that grant people a license to enter a certain profession also oversee the conduct of the professional once licensed. If the individual who is licensed engages in conduct that a licensing agency feels is unethical or in another way worthy of disciplining, the licensing agency will discipline the professional. Disciplinary actions generally arise from customer complaints, undercover investigations, civil judgments, or criminal convictions.
What starts the disciplinary process: An investigation by the licensing agency generally commences the process. The investigation may or may not include communication with the licensee. If the licensing agency decides to move forward with the denial, suspension, or revocation of a license, a report is submitted to legal counsel for the licensing agency. Boards, bureaus, and committees under the Department of Consumer Affairs are represented by the California Attorney General. Departments, such as the Department of Insurance, Department of Real Estate, etc. are represented by in-house counsel.
The next step: If the report is submitted to legal counsel, legal counsel then prepares a document called the accusation. An accusation is a formal document that sets forth the alleged misconduct, the laws that were violated, and the discipline sought, such as suspension or revocation. In the case of the denial of a new license application, a Statement of Issues sets forth the reasons for the license denial. The Accusation or Statement of Issues is normally accompanied by a Statement to Respondent which provides information about the legal process, and a blank Notice of Defense Form. If the licensed professional returns the completed Notice of Defense within 15 days of the mailing date, the licensee is entitled to a hearing.
When the licensing agency receives the Notice of Defense: Upon the licensing agency’s receipt of the Notice of Defense, the agency’s attorney notifies the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The OAH is the court system for administrative hearings with offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Administrative law judges preside over pre-hearing scheduling, optional settlement conferences, and the hearing itself.
What happens at the hearing: At the disciplinary hearing, each party presents evidence in the form of live witness testimony and in the form of documents.
The results of the hearing: Within 30 days after the hearing, the administrative law judge submits written Findings of Fact and a Proposed Decision to the agency. The agency has 30 days to adopt or reject the Proposed Decision.
If the licensing agency adopts the Proposed Decision: If the agency issues an order adopting the Proposed Decision, then the Proposed Decision becomes the agency’s order.
If the licensing agency rejects the Proposed Decision: The agency also has the option of rejecting the administrative law judge’s proposed decision. Upon rejection of the proposed decision, the agency reviews the transcript of testimony and documents offered in evidence. The licensing agency then issues its own findings and decision.
What the licensee can do after the agency’s decision: The licensee has the right to appeal the licensing agency’s final decision and order through a Writ of Administrative Mandamus to the Superior Court of California. The time for filing an appeal depends on a number of factors, but it can be as little as 30 days from the order of denial, suspension or revocation.
College or University Disciplinary Hearing
Most colleges and universities have a code of conduct that students must follow. If a student is accused of violating the code, then generally the student will be able to attend an administrative hearing in front of a hearing board regarding the violation on or off campus.
The purpose of a hearing board: Hearing boards are in control of a school’s disciplinary hearings. Hearing boards are made to maintain a safe environment for the campus community so that the community supports the academic mission and provides a productive living and learning environment. Some colleges and universities will have students participate on the hearing board.
Conduct that warrants a hearing: Students who violate the particular school’s code of conduct will likely be required to attend an administrative hearing at their school. Students also accused of a criminal violation that occurred on or off campus may also be required to attend a school hearing. A college’s or university’s code of conduct usually provides that any student accused of a crime may be prosecuted under State or Federal law and also be disciplined under the student code of conduct. Facing additional sanctions imposed on a student are administrative in nature so no double jeopardy issues arise.
What happens at a school disciplinary hearing: Although the particular process may vary from school to school, generally speaking, whoever has alleged that the student has violated a school rule, must present evidence to support the allegation. The evidence presented may be live witness testimony or physical evidence. The student alleged to have made the violation will respond to the charges at the hearing. The burden of proof rests with the person or school that is making the accusation against the student.
The hearing board’s decision: Typically, once the hearing is over, the hearing board panel will meet privately to decide if the student is responsible as charged and what would be the fair and appropriate sanctions to recommend to the Dean of Students.
Possible sanctions: There are a number of different sanctions that a school may impose on a student found responsible for the misconduct. The following is a list of possible sanctions:
- Community restitution: This is community work without compensation.
- Denial of a privilege: This may be a denial of the use of a specific facility (i.e., meeting, room, lounge), residence hall living privileges, visiting privileges, parking privileges, or denial of Greek rush activities. This sanction may even deny a student access to the campus while on suspension or dismissal.
- Removal from housing: This is permanent removal from university housing.
- Suspension: A suspension is an exclusion from the university premises and other privileges or activities.
- Expulsion: This dismissal is a permanent termination of student status and exclusion from university premises, privileges, and activities.
There are other types of sanctions that a college or university could impose. The type of sanction that a school will impose depends on the particular school.