As the backlog in the courts increases, the federal government as well as all 50 states delegate authority to government agencies to govern professionals who are required be licensed. This area of law is known as administrative law. Agency procedures in many ways mirror those of the courts by defining the regulations, adjudicating disputes, and enforcing agency regulations. Much to the dismay of , licensed professionals within the state, California enforces the harshest regulations in the country.
The purpose of the regulations is to maintain "competitive markets, protect the public from unethical practices through enforcement and regulation, as well as empower the public through outreach and education."
California state agencies frequently revoke professional licenses for violations that are not well publicized. Many professionals are unaware that they have violated agencies rules until it is too late. The following are examples of regulatory agencies:
- State Bar of California – responsible for admitting as well as disciplining CA lawyers within the state.
- Department of Insurance (DOI) – monitors the financial condition of insurance companies, performs audits and ensures that Californians are treated fairly in the marketplace.
- Department of Real Estate – "safeguard[s] and promote[s] the public interests in real estate matters through licensure, regulation, education and enforcement."
- Contracts Licensing Board – investigates public complaints and "licensing and regulating the state’s construction industry."
- Division of Community Care Licensing (CCL) – regulates family day care centers, adult residential facilities and day programs, senior residential care facilities. The CCL is the largest agency in the State of California. Offenses that often result in license revocation include facility over capacity, inappropriate staff conduct, staff mistreatment of residents, failure to transfer an individual who requires a higher standard of care and failure to correctly administer prescribed medications.
- Health care agencies – includes the Medical Board of Licensed Physicians, other medical staff and the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. These agencies maintain disciplinary guidelines and follows up on consumer complaints.
Other professionals that are governed by agency regulations are:
What Is the Process If I Am Subject to an Agency Investigation?
Briefly, the process for most agency investigations are as follows:
- Consumer complaint
- Accusation filed against licensee
- Administrative pre-hearing
- Settlement negotiations
- Administrative hearing
- Appeal of decision
As a Licensed Professional, What Can I Do to Prepare Myself for an Agency Investigation?
Keeping all documentation in the scope of your employment and reporting all incidents that are questionable are the most important actions you can take to protect yourself. The reason being is that in the event of an investigation, the agency will require you to turn over any documentation related to your employment. However, many times you are not necessarily required by law to turn over everything they ask for. The agency attorneys may try to trick you and only a lawyer would definitively know their tactics.
The legal term for this process is called "discovery." Through discovery and investigation, each party attempts to accumulate relevant evidence that will prove his/her case and will defeat the opponents allegations and defenses." In the worst case scenario, discovery that you want to prepare includes:
- Oral and written depositionsand request for admissions (where you are compelled to answer questions that the agency may ask.)
- Inspections of documents, things, and places.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
A lawyer can the dispute and keep your license in the early stages of an investigation in order to avoid a hearing. However, if the dispute is not resolved, agencies are mandated to offer a judicial review for license revocations. Attorneys in California understand the discovery process and the politics involved in revocation proceedings. They also maintain important relationships with those whose duty is to prosecute professional licensees. It is very important to contact an administrative lawyer immediately if you are facing an investigation that will lead to a revocation of your license.