There is no shortage of DUI cases in Michigan.  According to the annual drunk driving audit of all courts, required by law and conducted by the Michigan State Police, there were approximately 46,248 alcohol-related traffic arrests in 2014 (2015 figures won’t be available for almost another year).  Even though there are plenty of DUI arrests during the fall and winter, things do get busier when the weather is warmer.  Boats get put in the water, barbecue parties happen all the time, the concert season swings into full gear, and people are just more inclined get out more than they do in the colder months.  Whereas most of my 250-plus DUI articles focus on a particular aspect of drinking and driving cases, I want to put up a short installment here that is more about general observations rather than specific analysis of drunk driving cases.

things-you-should-know-e1349801000893Cell phone tips about drunk drivers are relatively common nowadays.  Absolutely everyone has a cell phone.  The Police are experts at detecting signs of impaired driving, but when another motorist sees it so plainly that he or she picks up the phone and calls it in, it’s not unusual to find the driver was really, really drunk.  To date, I’ve never heard from anyone who has been erroneously called in and subsequently pulled over for being drunk and was found not to be.  In fact, I have not, in my 25-plus years, even met more than a couple of people who have ever been asked to step out of their vehicle who was not ultimately arrested for drinking and driving.  By the time a police officer gets to that, and barring a miracle, you’re going to jail.  If there’s a summary to this paragraph, it is probably that if you get called in as a suspected drunk driver or are asked to step out of the vehicle by the police, you get arrested.

If you have no prior DUI convictions within 7 years, you should almost always take the breath test.  The bad news here is that there is no way you can know when you should refuse.  If you decline, the Police will write you up for that refusal, and your driver’s license will be suspended for 1 year, unless you win (unlikely) a hearing at the Secretary of State or go to circuit court (different from the court where your DUI is pending) and file a petition for a restricted license.  That costs a lot of money and takes weeks and weeks, during which you cannot legally drive.  In 2nd offense and 3rd offense DUI cases, refusing the breathalyzer isn’t quite the same deal, although it almost never helps anyone, and, moreover, some 2nd offenders are finding themselves eligible for a restricted license if they go through a sobriety court, all of which is really complicated by having an additional suspension for refusing the breath test.  On top of all this, you can generally count on the police getting a warrant for a blood draw, especially for someone who has a prior DUI (or even more than one) on his or her record, so all refusing the breath test really does is make you look bad and causes you to come back with a elevated BAC (blood tests usually produce higher BAC results than breath tests).  Short answer; take the test.

I am somewhat unique as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, because I guarantee that if I take your case, I will win it.  There are really no hidden exclusions beyond the understandable caveats that if a person withholds vital information or lies, I’m off the hook.  Fortunately, I seldom lose any cases, rarely have to do any kind of warranty work, and, to date, have never had a situation where I have refused to honor my guarantee.  I was recently speaking with someone about my driver’s license restoration practice and how and why I require that a person must have truly quit drinking before I’ll take his or her case.  I pointed out that I have to resist a very real monetary temptation when I turn people away who call the office and are willing to pay my fee, but that having my guarantee means I am tied to the case until the person wins, and therefore prevents me from just taking someone’s money and “giving it a shot.”  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

honesty-is-the-best-policy1.1In most areas of the law, a lawyer cannot guarantee a particular outcome.  In a DUI, for example, a lawyer could make everything sound really favorable, get paid handsomely, and then stand there watching as the client gets hammered by the Judge.  License appeals filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Office (AHS) are different.  Because I know I’m stuck with a case until I get the person back on the road, there is no way that I’m going to obligate myself to a case that isn’t winnable.  In fact, just the other day I received a call from another lawyer about someone whose appeal I had previously declined to pursue.  This lawyer, who knows me and knows my practice, obviously got a different side of things from the caller, and when he found out that I had already turned the case down, suspected that there was more to it than he was being told.  After a few minutes on the phone, he thanked me for my time.  Several days later, I ran into him in court, and he again thanked me and breathed a sigh of relief that he didn’t get sucked into that losing situation.  In his case, and to his moral credit, he didn’t want to take the guy’s money and not be able to do anything for him, which is kind of where I come from, except that my sense of morality also has a guarantee attached to it.  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

Everyone needs a license.  I get tons of emails from people, many of them describing the hardship that goes along with not being able to drive, or the opportunities they have missed or will miss because they can’t.  The stories are compelling, but as I noted in a somewhat recent article about everyone “needing” a license, that couldn’t matter less.  A person becomes legally eligible to file a license appeal only after his or her revocation period ends.  An urgent need to drive, or a complete lack thereof, doesn’t affect this.  The problem is that sometimes, people contact me after having communicated with some lawyer, and either the person completely misunderstood what they were told, or the lawyer has no clue about license restoration.  Either way, most of these ideas involve trying some appeal to court, which is entirely impossible to begin with.  There is an understandable desperation these people feel, and they’d be willing to shell out just about any sum of money to get back on the road, or even to just “take a shot at it.”  I know better, and therefore won’t take the bait (or the person’s money), but in addition, I know that if I do take a case, I’m stuck with it until the person wins back his or her license.  In other words, my guarantee keeps me honest.

A rather large percentage of my DUI practice involves handling second time drinking and driving cases, meaning cases for people that have had a prior drunk driving a long time ago, as well as people facing an actual 2nd offense DUI charge. The reason for this is pretty simple: Those who have been through the process before recognize that my various explanations of the DUI process are pretty much spot-on, and have learned to separate what one wants to hear from what is true and accurate. There is, at least legally speaking, a vast difference between a 2nd offense DUI charge and merely going through the process for the 2nd time after a prior offense many years ago. A 2nd offense DUI charge is one, by law, that is brought within 7 years of a prior such case. Technically speaking, a DUI is a “second” if the arrest date for the current charge takes place within 7 years from the date of the conviction for the first. This does not mean, however, that everything is just peachy-good simply because a prior DUI falls outside of the 7-year window. Sure, a whole boatload of legal problems is avoided when your second DUI is not technically a “2nd offense,” but you still have to deal with the implications and reality of that prior offense, even if it cannot be used to enhance the penalties of the current charge.

ball-number-2-clip-art-free-vector-4vector.pngRecently, while attending a hearing in a driver’s license restoration case, a hearing officer redefined things for me and my client (who did win his full license back, by the way) after he characterized his 2 DUI’s as “mistakes.” She looked up, interrupted him, and said this: “Those weren’t mistakes. When you drove drunk the first time, you committed a crime. When you did it again, you became a habitual criminal.” That may sound harsh, but it gives a glimpse of how these cases are seen in the larger world. I’m sure one of the reasons I have such a robust DUI practice is that I am unique in pointing these things out, and speak rather candidly, if not at least diplomatically about these subjects. Avoiding real-world discussions and/or sugar coating things doesn’t help anyone. I have no tolerance for being patronized, and, in turn, have no inclination to do the same to anyone else. It is very easy for a lawyer to simply agree with the client (remember, the customer is always right) and not want to offend him or her, but the reality is that if you’re going to do anything good for a person facing a second DUI, it means you may have to get a little uncomfortable and tell it like it is. And it is this way: a person going to court for a DUI who has had a prior drinking and driving conviction is going to be seen by the Judge (and almost everyone else) as having, or as being at a substantially increased risk of having, a problematic relationship to alcohol.

I say this because most people who contact a lawyer for a second DUI, even if the charge itself is not a “2nd offense,” will want to explain that no matter how things look, they don’t have a drinking problem. If you sat in my chair, you could pretty much bank on hearing that in almost every such case, and usually as one of the very first things a person will say, at that. I understand this, but as easy as it would be for me to nod and agree, if I’m going to make things better for my client, then I need him or her to understand that you can say that until the end of time, but, in only a few exceptional circumstances, you’re not going to get the Judge to just go, “Oh, okay, well, I’m glad you cleared that up…” You don’t have to think about this too long or hard to realize that it doesn’t matter what you or I think. In the final analysis, it matters what the Judge thinks, and, when you think about that even a little, you begin to realize that nothing else matters nearly as much….
Continue reading

As of the writing of this article, a new law is sitting on the Governor’s desk that will expand what a circuit court can do when someone appeals to circuit court after losing a driver’s license restoration case. Procedurally, you first try to win back your license by going through the license reinstatement hearing process wherein the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Office (AHS) assigns a hearing officer who ultimately decides your case. In this article, We’ll briefly look at the change in the law, but then shift back to why, in the vast majority of cases, “appealing” to court after losing at the AHS is a waste of time and money. In my practice, I guarantee to win every case I take, so this new law has almost no potential impact on me or my clients, but there will no doubt be some curiosity, and, inevitably, quite a bit of confusion about it, so perhaps we can head off some of that misunderstanding.

index.jpgTo begin, there are a few things we need to get straight: First, to win a license restoration case, you need to prove things by what’s called “clear and convincing evidence.” The one-line short version of what that means is that after you submit your evidence and/or hold your hearing, you cannot leave the hearing officer with any unanswered questions (your evidence must be “clear”) and that evidence must show you have been alcohol free for a while, and that you are a safe bet (meaning “convincing”) to never drink again. The hearing officer is the person who decides if you’ve done that satisfactorily or not (that decision is the exercise of his or her discretion). Here’s the really important part: If a hearing officer denies a license restoration case and the person files an appeal in the circuit court, this does not make for any kind of new hearing, and no new evidence can be submitted. Instead, the Judge reviews the record (meaning he or she looks at all the evidence the hearing officer examined) and has to conclude whether or not the hearing officer’s decision was what is called “an abuse of discretion.” To put it another way, the Judge does NOT decide if he or she agrees with the hearing officer’s decision, but rather whether or not that decision is within the law. The legal standard for this kind of appeal is whether or not the decision is supported by material and competent evidence.

This means that a Judge can completely disagree with the hearing officer’s findings, but also not find any abuse of discretion or anything illegal about them, and therefore be unable to reverse them. Imagine Arnold Schwarzenneger and Hillary Clinton both run for President. In the first scenario, suppose Arnold wins, and the Judge loves him and even voted for him. However, when the Judge confirms that Arnold was born in Austria and NOT the United States, and that his election is therefore illegal, he must overturn the decision, even though he or she doesn’t want to do so. In the second scenario, assume Hillary wins, and a lot of people are upset about it, so they appeal the result in court. Even if the Judge doesn’t like Hillary and feels that she is the last person on earth who should get the job, unless he or she finds something illegal about her election, nothing can be done to undo it. This is the same thing that applies if someone tries to appeal a lost license restoration case. So what does the change in the law really do for someone who has lost a license case?
Continue reading

As a Michigan DUI lawyer, I have to take any number of things into account when I handle a DUI case. Where the charge is brought is always one of, and often the single most important factor in how things will work out in any given drunk driving case. Because of the profound effect of location, I generally limit my DUI practice to the courts of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, although I will go to Livingston County on occasion, as well. As I thought about this topic and how to approach it for this installment, it occurred to me that the old idea of being “a fly on the wall,” so to speak, might help, so I thought I’d bring the reader into a few conversations had in the privacy of my office, with my staff, or in the confines of my car (hands-free, on Bluetooth), as I “talk shop” with a colleague who does DUI work in a different area of the state. First, let’s move into my office…

location-location-location.jpgMy practice (drunk driving cases and driver’s license restoration appeals) means that my schedule often changes by the hour. I may, for example, get out of court one morning in Clinton Township and call into the office as I walk to my car, only to find out that I need to come straight in because a new DUI case from Rochester Hills needed to be squeezed in. As I listen to some preliminary details about the new matter (and come to accept that I’ll have another protein bar for lunch), the first thing I’ll be told is where the case is pending. It’s that important. In fact, there are many local district courts where the same DUI case will play out differently depending on the specific Judge to whom it is assigned. If there can be different outcomes between different Judges in the same court building, you better believe there can be even greater differences amongst various courts. Accordingly, the 3 main rules of real estate are equally important in DUI cases: Location, location and location. Now, let’s get into my car…

If you could eavesdrop on any of the phone conversations I have with other lawyers about drinking and driving cases, it is just expected, and taken as a given, that any discussion about a specific case will at least begin by explaining where it is pending. I’d imagine that when emergency room physicians compare notes, it is important that they clarify what brought the patient in, like an automobile accident, gunshot wound, or sports injury. In the world of DUI’s the “where” is really the foundation of the case. Thus, you would hear a story that begins like, “I had this one case the other day in Sterling Heights,” or “I had this one guy in New Baltimore” (or Shelby Township)…” When Lawyers discuss DUI cases, they more often first talk about the court in which it is pending or the Judge to whom it’s assigned rather than the specific details of the case, unless they are highly unusual, and even then, it clarifies things to examine the case within the context of its specific location.
Continue reading

As complicated as Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals can be, I wanted to try and reduce all of it to a few sentences. Accordingly, this article will be my attempt to boil down the essence of my license restoration section of my website and the 300-plus articles from the driver’s license restoration section of this blog into a simple, meaningful concept. To keep this article brief and interesting, we’ll start with that final result. The essence of a driver’s license appeal requires proving that you are not a risk to drink and drive again because you are a safe bet to never drink again, and have both the commitment and the tools to remain alcohol-free for good. Of course, this simplistic definition overlooks a lot of what goes into a license appeal case, but it does manage to capture the real “meat and potatoes” of a license reinstatement case and the Michigan Secretary of State’s governing rule. That official rule – Rule 13 – reads as follows:

simple.jpgThe hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:
i. That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.
ii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating his or her past abusive behavior is a low or minimal risk.
iii. That the risk of the petitioner repeating the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by, or under the influence of, alcohol or controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and a controlled substance or repeating any other offense listed in section 303(1)(d), (e), or (f) or (2)(c), (d), (e), or (f) of the act is a low or minimal risk.
iv. That the petitioner has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law.
v. Other showings that are relevant to the issues identified in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of this subdivision.

By legal definition, then, winning a license restoration or clearance appeal involves proving to a Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officer, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is under control (meaning that you can fix a sobriety date appropriately far enough in the past), and that it is likely to remain under control,” (meaning that you are likely to never drink again). Yet for as simple as we can make this sound, the truth is that there are what I call “a million little rules” (many of them unwritten) that come into play in each and every license reinstatement case and that must be observed in order to assemble a winning appeal. As a starting point, however, the idea that you’re no risk to drink and drive again because you’re committed to never drinking again is perfect. As much as there is to this, if you can honestly say that have quit drinking for good, then you have the necessary “stuff” needed for me to guarantee that I’ll win your license back.
Continue reading

This will be an article about “testing” in Michigan DUI cases. As a DUI lawyer who concentrates his practice in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I have watched testing as a condition of bond (release) and it has grown to become the normal operating procedure in most Detroit-area courts. As a term of DUI probation, testing (both breath and urine) has become almost universal. My inspiration for this installment is about half editorial and half informational; half of me is frustrated at the whole system and the sometimes unreasonable burden it places on people facing an OWI charge, and the other half of me wants people to understand this whole “testing” business, including, not coincidentally, the business of testing. The other day, a client called my office upset that he may violate the testing requirement of his bond. He’s a decent, honest guy, and his concern was that no matter how hard he tries, how much water he drinks, or how long he waits, he cannot provide a urine sample with someone watching him. This might be funny in another context, but not when his shy bladder has the potential to put him in the crosshairs of being sent to jail.

antibiotic-lab-test-400x400.jpgIn a recent blog article about how a DUI can just “happen,” I noted that an important part of my job as a DUI attorney is to play the role of diplomat, and help translate to each side what the other means, and why certain things are the way they are. This means that I have to explain to the client how things work, and why. Sometimes, there is no “why,” and things are just the way they are. On the flip side, (like in the case of the guy who can’t pee) I have to explain to the court how, despite appearances, my client is not simply disregarding its orders. This installment will be my attempt to explain the court’s side of things to the reader as well as providing an opportunity to vent some of my own frustration about the problems caused by all the “testing.”

It has been empirically validated that separating a person from alcohol is one of the best ways to help him or her get sober. It is also well known that DUI drivers, as a group, have a higher incidence of alcohol problems than the population at large. Given the automatic statistically increased risk of having a drinking problem DUI drivers bring with them, it is understandable that the court system likes to keep them away from alcohol. Of course, doing this flips the presumption of innocence concept on its head, but that is a very deep subject best saved for another time. For now, what matters is that many, if not most people arrested for DUI will be required to provide either a breath or urine sample during at least part of the time their cases are pending in court, and it is often a great big hassle that causes all kinds of headaches…
Continue reading

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney and DUI lawyer, I sometimes describe myself as being like a “Q-tip,” with one end of my practice being capped by DUI cases, the other end capped with license reinstatement appeals, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. No matter how you look at it, alcohol plays a central role in everything I do. Because alcohol is so crucial to my day to day work, I completed the coursework in a University, post-graduate program of addiction studies in order to get a clinical understanding of the whole range of issues people have with drinking, from the development, diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment of alcohol problems. Based upon a recent comment, this article will be about what makes me different from 99% of the other lawyers fishing for your Michigan OWI or license restoration case. And although this article is about me, if you take the time to read it, you will learn what things really matter as you look for a lawyer, no matter who you ultimately hire. We can start this discussion with a simple question that has almost universal application, whether you’re looking to hire a lawyer, doctor, dentist, plumber, builder, mechanic, or anyone: Why should I hire you?

tumblr_mx8xxneMPt1qk91wgo1_500.pngWhen you think about it, that question makes so much sense that it’s actually easy to overlook. It may seem impolite to ask it outright (although I wouldn’t mind answering it), but if you’re not at least asking it of yourself as you sift through potential candidates for your own drunk driving or license appeal case (or anything else, for that matter), then you’re going about it all wrong. “Why should I hire you” (as opposed to someone else), or “Why should I buy this product” (instead of another) is precisely the question that should be asked anytime you’re shelling out money. In general, the correct answer is always going to be something to the effect that you believe that you’re getting the best service or product, or are otherwise making the best choice for your particular needs. So what makes me different (or at least makes me think I’m so different) from every other lawyer?

The comment that inspired this article was actually the most recent of several similar comments made over the years to Ann, my senior assistant, by other lawyer colleagues. Recently, one of them was in my office to see me, and when Ann explained that I was in the middle of my usual 3-hour first meeting with a new client for a driver’s license restoration case, the attorney said something like, “He spends too much time in those meetings.” It wasn’t meant in an offensive way, but as Ann later pointed out, that would pretty much be the assessment of 99% of all the other lawyers. As Ann further noted, 99% of those other lawyers DO NOT have 3 support staff employees (if they even have one) for just themselves; none of them handles as many license appeals in their busiest year as I do in a single month; none of them has a blog with anywhere near a fraction of the information and analysis I give out, and absolutely none of them provides a guarantee to win his or her client’s license back, like I do. So yeah, I’m different, way different, but in a good way, and nothing could ever make me want to change that.
Continue reading

In part 1 of this article, I began my updated examination of the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Office (AHS) hearing officers who staff the Livonia hearing office, and who decide all the Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals that I file, as well as the seemingly ever-growing number of ignition interlock violations that come about. In my role as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, I appear before these same people day-in and day-out, and I have come to know how each perceives case evidence like the substance abuse evaluation and the letters of support. The same piece of such evidence may be interpreted differently by one hearing officer over another, and this is something you better know before your hearing. Part of the reason I provide a guarantee to win every case I take is that I always start with a genuinely sober client whose recovery is exactly what is contemplated as the “meat and potatoes” of a license appeal, and I wind up at the hearing conducted by a hearing officer whose idiosyncrasies I know well.

5661262_orig.jpgThis is important stuff, but as I hope the reader gleans, it’s certainly second, or subordinate, to your being genuinely sober. I know these hearing officers as well as anyone, and I daresay I see them far more than just about any other lawyer, but none of that matters a bit if a person has not honestly adopted an alcohol-free lifestyle. I mention this because for all the time I’ve spent detailing how I know the hearing officers, they have come to know me, as well. There is no single case, and no amount of money that would tempt me to ruin my reputation for honesty in their eyes. It is often and wisely noted that it takes a lifetime to build and maintain a good reputation, but it only takes one stupid thing to destroy it. I strive to be the best lawyer I can be, but I’d much rather be known and trusted as honest, yet of only average skill, than I’d ever want to be known as incredibly talented, but not trustworthy. Not all of my license restoration or clearance appeal cases are perfect, but none of them is bogus, or based upon false information, and that’s why I have my guarantee. We covered 2 of the hearing officers in the first part of this article; now, let’s look at the other 3.

The New Nice Guy. This hearing officer is also a new to the Livonia lineup since my 2011 article, and I struggled to find a better description for him than “The New Nice Guy,” especially because the hearing officer nicknamed “The Nice Guy” in the earlier article is still there, and still nice, but to overlook The New Nice Guy’s natural kindness would be like trying to ignore the horn on a unicorn. Before becoming a lawyer, this hearing officer was a police officer in the Metro-Detroit area. This means he knows how to handle people, question people, and size them up, and he knows how to do that as a matter of instinct, and without hesitation. Consistently friendly and pleasant, it doesn’t take long to realize that he doesn’t miss a thing – ever. I pride myself on being perceptive, but I realize that I’m lucky just to be perceptive enough to see how much more perceptive he is. It’s kind of like having Sherlock Holmes as a hearing officer, except The New Nice Guy has a big heart. Perhaps because of his police training, his questions are never asked just to fill time, and are always directly responsive to the case before him. What’s obvious through his questions is that they cut to the heart of the matter and probe whether the person really is sober or not. In that sense, it’s almost like he has a built-in truth meter. This is obviously good for anyone who has genuinely quit drinking, but likely a deal breaker for anyone who is not. One of his more interesting traits is the ability to get to the core of an issue with only a few questions. Again, this isn’t trouble for anyone who is really sober, but I can only imagine that it’s sheer torture for anyone trying to pull a fast one. Still, for all of his skill, it is obvious that The New Nice Guy puts his heart into trying to discover the truth, and do the right thing.

Continue reading

My job as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer involves a lot of license appeal hearings. Back in 2011, I put up a 2-part blog installment entitled “Driver’s License Restoration Appeals in Michigan – Know Your Hearing Officer.” This 2-part article will be a timely update of that article, because there has been a couple of changes to the lineup of the Michigan Secretary of State Administrative Hearing Section (AHS) hearing officers in Livonia, where my cases are heard, and because, frankly, it’s time to refresh this very important subject anyway. The hearing officer is to a license reinstatement case what a conductor is to a classical orchestra. When you look at either a license appeal case or orchestral composition, everything is on paper, and, in a sense, both the rules of a license appeal and the music in a symphony are spelled out clearly, in black and white. A piece of music is what it is, but one conductor may have the orchestra play a passage faster, or more loudly, than another maestro. In the same way, each hearing officer sees things a little differently than the others, and each finds certain particular evidentiary points more important than his or her colleagues. In other words, each conductor and each hearing officer interprets what’s in front of him or her in their own unique way. In a license appeal case, understanding how that works is critical to winning.

question-mark-face.pngIn a Michigan license restoration or clearance appeal case, the 2 main things you must prove are that your alcohol problem is “under control” and that your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.” “Under control” means that you haven’t had a drink for at least a year; I explain this by saying that you have to “fix” a sobriety date, even if you only know the month and year (for example, by saying something like, “June of 2011”). In my practice, I generally want a person to have been sober for at least 2 years, and I much prefer at least 3, and even more. “Likely to remain under control” essentially means that you are a safe bet to never drink again, which entails proving you have both the commitment and the tools to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. There is a lot more to a license appeal than this, but at least we have a frame of reference to start. Proving these things is primarily done by submitting letters of support and a substance abuse evaluation. How the hearing officer assigned to your case interprets this (and all the other) evidence is really fundamental to its outcome.

I have all my license appeal hearings set at the AHS office in Livonia, where there are 5 hearing officers. Because of the sheer volume of license appeals I handle, I wind up before the same hearing officers again and again – and again. I get to really know how they do things, and I am very familiar with the things they have in common, as well as the idiosyncrasies that makes a hearing before one of them different from a hearing before anyone of the others. This is important to me because the specific hearing officer assigned to your case significantly affects how we’ll prepare for it. Beyond the various evidentiary or legal points in any given case that may be more or less important to one hearing officer over another, the way each hearing officer conducts a hearing is unique to him or her, as well. I simply cannot imagine a client walking into the hearing room without having been prepared for exactly what is going to happen, how the hearing is going to play out, what questions are going to be asked, and by whom. That last part is important because as it stands now, 3 of the 5 hearing officers prefer that the lawyer ask most of the questions. By contrast, and less than 3 years ago, standard operating procedure was for the hearing officer to ask most of the questions, so the whole idea of who will be asking the questions is now an important part of the hearing process and preparation for it. Therefore, when I know that I’ll be asking most of the questions, I have to remember to include those that are of particular interest to the specific hearing officer deciding the case. In other words, even the questions that I ask changes somewhat from hearing officer to hearing officer.
Continue reading