This is what your state government thinks about due process:
My partner is representing a contractor. The California's Contractors State License Board wants to take his license away based on an (untrue) allegation of misconduct. My partner has just finished the first day of a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, to which the client is entitled under state law.
My partner came into my office and described his discussion with the Deputy Attorney General representing the Board in the hearing. "He told me I ought to take the deal he's offering, which is basically to submit to revocation of the license. He says the hearing is a waste of time, because if the Board doesn't agree with the ALJ's ruling, the Registrar of Contractors will just ignore the ruling and revoke the client's license anyway."
"He said that?" I ask, aghast.
"I have a recording of him saying it," confirms my partner.
"Holy shit!" says I — for it is my role in the firm to police and worry about such things — "You didn't record him without his knowledge in violation of state law, did you?"
"Nope" says my partner. "He didn't just say it in person. He said that in a message he left on my voicemail."
Yes. A Deputy Attorney General is so openly contemptuous of the appearance of due process afforded by California administrative law that he's willing to say, in a recording, that the State of California will just ignore the results of an administrative hearing if it doesn't like those results. He didn't say it would happen just in select cases where the head of the agency determines, after careful review, that the Administrative Law Judge made a grave error of fact or law. Nope, it was a straight out "if we win, we win, if we lose, we ignore it and do what we want anyway."
That made me mad, at first. But then I thought about it. Really, who can blame him for being contemptuous of a meaningless waste of time? At least he's honest. California law does, in fact, allow agencies to ignore the findings of Administrative Law Judges — who are, quite frankly, hardly pro-client — and substitute their own judgment. We can apply for a writ of mandamus in Superior Court to overturn that decision at considerable additional expense and delay.
As I've argued before, most of the justice system serves to create an illusion of justice, not to seek justice. Our government, and welcome to it.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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