When our clients face an administrative hearing, one of their most pressing concerns is about witnesses: who do they have to be, where are they going to come from, and what are they supposed to say? At Ray & Bishop, PLC, we have counseled thousands of clients about their administrative hearings, and we appear at scores of hearings every year, so we have invaluable insight into the hearing process that only comes with experience. The presence of witnesses at an administrative hearing can often make the difference between success and failure, but not always for the same reasons, and proper witness testimony and preparation is vitally important.
When the focus of a licensee’s disciplinary hearing is rehabilitation, witnesses are often indispensable. In a case where the agency wants to discipline a licensed professional because of their past convictions, it is no good arguing that the convictions didn’t happen—the agency almost always has certified court records of the convictions and they usually indicate a plea of no contest or guilty. Instead, the licensee has to show the court that he or she has rehabilitated, in other words, that they’re remorseful, insightful, and different now than they were at the time of the crime. They do this primarily by testifying for the judge, under the direction of an experienced, articulate attorney who can frame their case in the most positive light possible. However, even after the licensee says all the right things, a judge still has to decide “how do I know if this person is telling the truth?”
Witnesses can help a judge answer a critical question. If a licensee says “I help out at my son’s school,” then a witness who knows about that volunteer work (another parent who sees it happen, or a teacher who the licensee assists) can testify about the licensee’s helpful character. If the licensee says “I don’t drink anymore,” then a witness who knows about the licensee’s drinking habits can testify that the licensee is sober and turns down alcohol at social gatherings. If the licensee says “I’m always the first one to work and the last one to leave,” then a coworker or supervisor can testify about the licensee’s good work habits. These witnesses establish a licensee’s credibility. They help the judge answer the question “is this person telling the truth?” with a resounding “yes.”
Lastly, a word of caution about potential witnesses. We always counsel our clients that administrative hearings are a matter of public record. That means that whatever the subject matter of the hearing, the witness who testifies is going to learn about it. If the witness learns about the subject matter of the hearing for the first time on the day they testify, that could adversely affect their opinion and the opinion of the judge. A licensee should make sure that his or her witnesses are familiar with their case before they testify.
If you need representation in a professional licensing matter, contact an experienced license defense attorney at Ray & Bishop, PLC immediately.