Administrative Hearings

Dec 18th, 2013

As I often write, the administrative hearing provisions of many dangerous dog laws (DDL) and breed-specific laws (BSL) actually negate a dog owner’s due process rights, as do the hearing officers or hearing administrators who preside over administrative proceedings, and the administrative hearings themselves.  Yet mere civilians — meaning not proper judges in a proper court room — are often appointed to the role of hearing administrator.

When a dog owner is accused of something as serious as harboring a vicious dog that has hurt someone, proper procedure needs to be followed, including allowing the accused dog owner his or her due process rights which include having the right to defend himself or herself in a proper court of law with a proper judge, not an administrative hearing officer.

In fact, administrative hearings are typically not held in a proper court of law where the accused may face his/her accuser and where the accused has legal representation afforded to him/her.  In other words, these administrative hearings actually negate dog owners’ due process rights and are therefore wholly unconstitutional.

If a dog is deemed vicious or potentially dangerous in no more than an administrative hearing, and not in a proper court of law via an impartial (uncorrupt) judge with the defendant allowed to make his/her case and with an attorney properly representing him/her, which includes expert opinion that a dog may or may not be inherently vicious, then what, for instance, is to keep your Home Owner’s Association (HOAs) from declaring itself an administrative body and doing same?  

Courts of law have already upheld that HOAs and condo boards can pass breed-specific bans or restrictions on dog breeds the HOA arbitrarily declares vicious.  So, what the hey, maybe when your kid puts her stuffed animals in teddy bear jail, maybe that should be binding too.  I mean, it’s about as arbitrary.

Indeed, many don’t agree with the arbitrary administrative hearing decision that their dog is vicious, but perhaps they don’t sue a city or county for installing an administrative hearings process to declare dogs dangerous or vicious because many built-in admin hearing provisions allow for the accused to appeal the dangerous or vicious dog determination to a proper court of law.  But the allowance to appeal to a proper court of law does not restore proper due process, and, as any attorney knows, it is a lot harder to have a decision, even an admin hearing decision, overturned on appeal.   

But then, admin hearings are a stacked deck anyway.  They are meant to negate a dog owner’s constitutional rights in a setting where s/he may not even be able to hire a proper attorney.  That’s the point.  Admin hearings don’t exist to relieve an overwhelmed court system as was the original explanation when admin hearings provisions first started appearing in breed-specific legislation and dangerous dog laws.  No, admin hearings exist to negate your rights to defend yourself properly, as provided for in our Constitution, and to set a precedent for negating those constitutional rights as the new norm