This article will briefly discuss why I NEVER call witnesses in a License Restoration Hearing. As of this writing, after having held between about 50 and 60 Hearings so far in 2010, I have won every one of them. That’s a 100% success rate. In 2009, I think I only lost 1 case, and had more than 50 Hearings.
And I never called a single witness in any of them. I don’t believe in witnesses.
Very often, when someone comes in to hire me to handle their License Restoration, they ask me about who they should line up as witnesses. When I tell the Client that we won’t be needing any, their eyes go wide in surprise.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve called a single witness in a few years, and I have always maintained a win rate of well over 90% of the cases I handle.
Now, there are some “trade secrets” here that I simply cannot discuss until the Client is in my office. My reasons for NOT having witnesses will make perfect sense, once explained, but I don’t feel I should tip my hand in case “big brother” happens across this article. Whatever else, I know my reasoning is solid, because, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.”
One of the most important parts of a License Appeal is the Letters of Support. I work extensively with my Client to make sure those letters are top notch, and do what they’re supposed to do. In that regard, they are supposed to help prove (and win) the License Appeal.
Thus, we’ll make sure the letters give every positive, and relevant fact about the Client. As I note on my website, “good guy” letters which talk about how good the person is who’s trying to win back their License, and how hard they’ve had it without a License, and that they’ve learned from their mistakes, and how they need to drive to support themselves and their family, and how they will forever treasure a Restored License, do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help a case.
Instead, we’ll focus on exactly what we’d want the letter writer to say if he or she was giving testimony.
The main reason I don’t bring in witnesses is that a letter cannot be questioned or cross-examined, whereas a witness can. Letters don’t get nervous, they don’t “think,” they don’t “say” the wrong thing (at least not if they’re done correctly), and they don’t make mistakes.
Witnesses do all of the above.
I remember a case from many years ago where I had a Client who was a single woman with a roommate. Her mother came to testify for her, and everything was going fine, until the Hearing Officer asked if the mom had ever seen alcohol in her daughter’s household. The mom replied something like “well, not for her.”
Of course, the Hearing Officer asked her to explain what that meant, and it wound up coming out that the roommate may have kept some wine in the house for her and her guests, but not for the Client. That was enough to help lose the case. There were other problems with the case, to be sure, but that was probably the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
By the way, the Client won her next Appeal.
Still, the important thing here is that no such questions could be asked of the Client’s mother’s letter. And if that letter covered everything I think it needed to cover (and you can bet it did, at her next Appeal) then it could provide all the possible benefit that any and every thing the mother could say without any of the risk of being asked a question.
Preparing for a Hearing means preparing the Client for 2 things:
1. The questions that ANY and ALL Hearing Officer’s will ask, and
2. The questions that the PARTICULAR Hearing Officer who will be hearing my Client’s case will ask.
Trying to prepare a witness for every possible scenario is impossible. Beyond that, any particular answer they might give can result in further, unanticipated questions. To me, that’s just an unknown variable that can be completely eliminated by having everything good and helpful they can say put in a letter, and leaving it at that.
Of course, this is a super-duper, boiled-down version of my witness philosophy, but it does, I think, convey the main point: Witnesses are risks.
Cases are won by eliminating, not adding, risks to the License Restoration equation.
If I’m your Lawyer, you can tell any witnesses you were thinking about that they can stay home.
Now, about those letters….