The final step in the administrative hearing process is the final decision from the hearing officer or the board. The final decision is the decision that the board will state after all parties have presented evidence and the evidence has been considered. The decision is based on findings of law and fact and guided by relevant regulations and statutes. Learn more about the final decision here.
Findings of Fact
Findings of fact are solely based on the evidence that is presented to the board in the hearing and on issues that are in dispute. All evidence that is presented by both parties in the hearing is put on the “record.” The record is a transcript or sometimes audio or video that is captured and preserved for the future. The importance of having an attorney at this stage in the proceeding is to make sure the record is accurate and complete with factual information for the board to consider when determining their findings of fact.
Because the ultimate decision rests on findings of fact, it is of critical importance to lay out sufficient findings of fact that support the licensee’s defense. C.G.S. §4-183(j) states that, “The court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the evidence of questions of fact.”
The other reason that it is important to build a record with sufficient factual information that builds the licensee’s defense is to preserve the information for any future appellate proceedings. If the licensee ends up with an unfavorable outcome, an appeal may be a viable option to fight against the outcome in the administrative hearing. If the record has sufficient factual findings, it can establish facts that can be shown to the appellate court. The findings of fact are given substantial weight because they are decided by the preponderance of the evidence generally.
Even though findings of fact are determined by the standard of preponderance of the evidence, there can still be gaps in the record and issues of credibility. For example, one witness may give a statement at the hearing that is contradicted by the statement of another witness. When these two contradicting statements are evaluated by the finders of fact, they must determine which witness is more credible and believable. This more credible witness will then be given the benefit of the doubt.
Findings of Law
In addition to findings of fact, the board must also make findings of law, which means applying the statutes and regulations to the findings of fact. Sometimes applying the facts to the law is very clear-cut and there is no ambiguity or room for an opinion, since it is obvious. Other times, this decision could be more ambiguous and leave room for uncertainty. Although the board is composed of members that are fluent in regulations and the profession of the licensee, they are usually not lawyers, and therefore, may not have experience researching and studying laws. This is another basis for a future appeal.
Some decisions that are made by the board after the hearing include a full discussion about what factual and legal determinations were made, but other times the decision only includes a short explanation of the holding. The final decision may be rendered in writing or orally, because the UAPA does not require a final decision to be in writing. If the decision is announced orally, a transcript can usually be ordered.
If you or someone you know is going through the administrative hearing process or feels that they may be caught up in this process, call our office to see how we can help.