By order of the Director and Chief of the Office of Administrative Hearings, Zackery P. Morazzini, on March 19, 2020, all hearing rooms at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) locations are closed for business, and no hearings at off-site locations will take place. The order lasts through April 16, 2020. Interim and Temporary Suspension Order hearings are still taking place via telephone, as well as other hearings not directly applicable to professional licensees in California. All other matters were continued by the OAH order.
This order has immediate ramifications for professional licensees and applicants. First, any hearing on or before April 16, 2020 is indefinitely continued. It is very unlikely that a new hearing date will be set without the input of both parties. Therefore, if you are unrepresented at this time, you should be prepared to communicate your availability to opposing counsel as soon as more direction is provided from OAH. You should also take advantage of this opportunity to seek a consultation with an experienced licensing attorney.
Second, for any licensee whose case requires a showing of rehabilitation, the extra time should be put to good use. We have written in a separate article about rehabilitation during the COVID-19 epidemic, but, for example, it would be smart for all licensees to reach out, electronically, to friends and colleagues who can speak to their positive character traits, and generate written letters of support for use in an administrative proceeding.
Third, this is bad news for license applicants who are awaiting a hearing to begin their professional career. However, many state attorneys are still working—the Office of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney Generals who pursue administrative denials on behalf of state agencies, as well as the agency staff counsel who represent individual Departments such as the Department of Insurance, Department of Real Estate, or Department of Social Services, are working remotely and still have the authority to reach settlements. This is an ideal time for you and your attorney to pursue an alternative to discipline to settle your matter.
If you face an administrative hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings, contact an experienced licensing attorney for a consultation immediately.