Disciplinary actions generally arise from customer complaints, undercover investigations (in the case of the Bureau of Automotive Repair), civil judgments or criminal convictions. An investigation by the licensing agency generally commences the process. The investigation may or may not include communication with the licensee. If the agency decides to move forward with the denial, suspension or revocation of a license, a report is submitted to legal counsel. 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 state, etc., are represented by in-house counsel.
In the case of discipline against an existing license, legal counsel prepares a document called an Accusation. An Accusation is a formal document that sets forth the alleged misconduct, the laws that were violated, and the discipline sought, e.g. suspension or revocation. In the case of the denial of a new license application, a Statement of Issues sets forth the reason 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. The licensee is entitled to a hearing if he or she returns the completed Notice of Defense within 15 days of the mailing date.
Upon receipt of the Notice of Defense, the agency’s attorney notifies the California Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The Office of Administrative Hearings 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 licensing hearing itself. At the hearing, each party presents evidence in the form of live witness testimony and documents. Within thirty days after the hearing, the administrative law judge submits written Finding of Fact and a Proposed Decision to the agency. The agency has 30 days to adopt or reject the Proposed Decision. If the agency issues an order adopting the Proposed Decision, then the Proposed Decision becomes the agency’s order. 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, and then issues its own findings and decision.
The licensee has the right to appeal the 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.
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