Unfortunately, a large percentage of individuals facing license discipline fail to hire an experienced license law attorney. The result is often that the disciplinary hearing is lost. While the loss of an administrative hearing is tragic, it is not the end of the case. The Administrative Procedure Act and California law give the licensee some options after a lost hearing.
The first option is reconsideration. The Administrative Procedure Act permits a licensee or license applicant to ask the administrative agency to reconsider its decision before the decision becomes final. The petition for reconsideration can be an opportunity, if the agency allows it, to produce additional evidence that was not available at the administrative hearing. Reconsideration also gives the agency another opportunity to decide the case where the agency feels the outcome was too harsh.
Once an administrative decision has become final, the next step is an appeal to Superior Court, called a writ of administrative mandamus. The writ process allows a Superior Court judge to review the case record and determine if the agency abused its discretion. A Superior Court judge can also stay, or stop, the imposition of a penalty (such as license revocation) while the writ is pending. The judge can remand a case back to the agency for proceedings in line with the judge’s decision. Sometimes the licensing agency will settle a case once the writ is granted, to save time and money, rather than send the case through the administrative discipline proceess again. The deadline to file a writ of administrative mandamus is generally 30 days after the effective date of the decision.
If a writ was not filed or was not successful, the final option is a petition for reinstatement of a lost license. Some health care licensing agencies require a three year wait before applying for reinstatement, although most agencies permit a petition for reinstatement to be filed after one year. Some agencies decide these petitions by a short hearing in front of the Board, but some submit the cases to a full-blown hearing before an administrative law judge. The agency hearing the petition for reinstatement focuses upon the licensee’s rehabilitation, education and personal enrichment activities after the loss of a license. The petition for reinstatement is not an opportunity to again fight the lost battle over a license.
All in all, licensees get the best legal value from hiring an attorney as soon as possible after a problem starts. When a lawyer takes a case at the appellate level, significant irreversible damage may have already been done. Nevertheless, a valuable license can be saved even after a loss at hearing by a skilled aggressive attorney.