The California Legislature established the Office of Administrative Hearings in 1945. The California Office of Administrative Hearings is a quasi-judicial court that hears administrative disputes. Through its panel of approximately 80 Administrative Law Judges, the Office of Administrative Hearings conducts thousands of hearings each year for state and local government agencies. The Office of Administrative Hearings maintains four offices: Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego.
With the exception of attorney discipline hearings, the Office of Administrative Hearings hears all professional license discipline cases. Administrative licensing agencies such as the Board of Registered Nursing and the Medical Board of California delegate the task of hearing disciplinary cases to the Office of Administrative Hearings and its Administrative Law Judges. The administrative licensing agencies, however, retain final decision-making authority in disciplinary cases. Administrative Law Judges render proposed decisions that the licensing agency can then adopt, change, or reject.
The Board of Registered Nursing is just one of the administrative licensing agencies that employs the Office of Administrative Hearings to conduct its disciplinary hearings. The Board of Registered Nursing pursues disciplinary action against nurses for violations of the Nursing Practice Act. Most violations of the Nursing Practice Act fall into one of three primary categories: (1) substance abuse/chemical dependency, (2) criminal convictions, or (3) patient care issues.
The nursing discipline process begins when the Board of Registered Nursing receives a complaint about a registered nurse. Anyone who believes that a nurse acted in an unsafe or unprofessional manner can submit a complaint to the Board of Registered Nursing. The Board then investigates the complaint and determines whether or not the allegations have merit. Complaints are generally confidential and are not part of the public record during the investigation process.
If the Board of Registered Nursing believes the allegations have merit, the Board will refer the case to the Attorney General for formal disciplinary action. The Attorney General acts essentially as the attorney for the Board of Registered Nursing. Upon receiving a complaint from the Board of Registered Nursing, the Attorney General will issue a formal Accusation against the individual nurse.
The Accusation is part of the public record and the Board of Registered Nursing will disclose the specific charges upon request. On its website, the Board of Registered Nursing publishes all Accusations filed against nurses and also publishes a monthly list of nurses against whom it has filed Accusations or taken other disciplinary action.
It is imperative that a nurse who receives an Accusation from the Board of Registered Nursing act quickly. A nurse only has 15 days from when an Accusation is sent out to return the Notice of Defense. If the nurse fails to return the Notice of Defense, the Board deems the nurse to have waived his or her right to a hearing and will proceed in disciplining the nurse without a hearing.
Once the Accusation is filed, a case can be resolved by withdrawal of the Accusation, dismissal, a stipulated settlement, or a decision after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Many factors, including the individual nurse’s priorities and the severity of the charges in the Accusation, will affect the decision between pursuing a stipulated settlement or taking the case to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Disciplinary orders range from outright license revocation to probation. If you receive an Accusation from the Board of Registered Nursing it is important that you take action immediately to preserve your rights.
The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney.