It has been a while since I wrote about the various DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) Hearing Officers who decide Driver's License Restoration Appeals for the Michigan Secretary of State. Within the context of any given Michigan License Appeal, the Hearing Officer is really the most important person in the world, at least while your file is on his or her desk. This article will examine, in general terms, the role of the Hearing Officer and some of the more important differences and similarities amongst them.
In a previous, 2-part article, I took a sort of "anonymous" look at the 5 Hearing Officers at the Livonia branch of the DAAD, where I have all of my License Appeals heard. The same 5 Hearing Officers are still there, and nothing has changed in the time since I published those installments, so there is really nothing to update about them. Yet the whole concept of the role of the Hearing Officer is so critical to how I prepare my cases (and very relevant to why I provide a win Guarantee) that it needs to be reviewed from time to time.
It's easy to get caught up in the fixed, almost mechanical requirements of a Michigan Driver's License Appeal. The process starts with a Substance Abuse Evaluation. I start by spending 3 hours with a new Client just to prepare them to undergo that Evaluation. Letters of Support need to be written, and I spend a lot of time "correcting" and editing them. When all of this paperwork has been completed and reviewed and made "just right," it's filed with the State and a Hearing date is eventually given. Part of the notification of the Hearing date is the assignment of the case to a particular Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer is the opposite of fixed, or mechanical. Different Hearing Officers have different backgrounds, concerns, life experiences and perspectives that influence how they evaluate the evidence in and ultimately decide a License Appeal. The Hearing Officer is, in that sense, a fluid variable in a License Appeal.
To complicate that even more, you don't know who this "fluid variable" in your License Appeal case will be until AFTER it's filed. My job would be much easier if I knew, in advance, to which Hearing Officer any particular case would be assigned. Precisely because the assignment of cases is random (and that really is the only way to make it fair), I have to consider the idiosyncrasies of all of the 5 Hearing Officers before whom I have my cases heard as I prepare each one.
This means, for example, that if a person has used any potentially addictive or mind or mood altering medication after the date of their last drink, I have to prepare the case as if it might go in front of the one Hearing Officer most concerned about that issue (identified as "The Doctor" in the previous 2-part installment about Hearing Officers) and before whom every "I" must be dotted and every "t" crossed. Not doing so could be a fatal mistake, even though there is an 80% chance the case may be assigned to one of the other 4 Hearing Officers. This means I have to get the proper Doctor's letter before the case is ever filed, and make sure the Evaluator receives a copy so that she can include its analysis in her Evaluation.
Accordingly, considerations about the Hearing Officer are relevant even before the case is ever assigned to one. This is why I have all of my cases scheduled in Livonia, because at least I only have to keep a handle on 5, albeit 5 very distinct personalities. Fortunately, regular and repeat experience in hundreds upon hundreds of cases before them has exposed me to the gamut of how they see things. Even so, as each case I handle has its own story, or theme, I have to review it in light of the way each of the 5 different Hearing Officers will consider it. This means I have to make allowances for and prepare for certain things that there is only a 1 out of 5 chance that we'll actually have to deal with. To put it another way, I have to take into account things that there is an 80% chance will never come up. But doing things properly means doing just that...