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New York OATH Disciplinary Hearing Defense Lawyer

Many people are acquainted with the courtroom trial process, even if they’ve never been personally involved in a case. Yet even if you’re familiar with court proceedings, you may be unfamiliar with the proceedings of the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).

If you’re facing an OATH hearing, you need an attorney on your side who understands the hearing process. The team at the Brill Legal Group can help you prepare for and navigate an OATH hearing. 

What Does the New York City OATH Do?

Some New York laws require a government agency to hold a hearing before that agency takes an action that could infringe on an individual’s legal rights. The Office of Administrative Trial and Hearings is responsible for holding these hearings and making decisions. 

Like a courtroom trial, an OATH hearing includes a judge. OATH judges are administrative judges who hear both the facts and the applicable law before issuing a decision. Parties in an OATH hearing may choose an experienced attorney to represent them. They may also work with a non-lawyer advocate or represent themselves. Parties are permitted to present witnesses and evidence to support their side of the claim. 

Case Types OATH Handles

OATH handles a wide range of case types. Common cases that come before the OATH Trials Division include:

  • City employee disciplinary trials, including matters under Sections 71, 72, and 75 of the city’s civil service law. 
  • Licensing and credentialing questions, including taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers’ licensing and press credentials. 
  • Construction and building design issues for the Department of Buildings, such as license revocation claims against architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and more. 
  • Health, hygiene, and nuisance questions brought by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, ranging from permit questions to dog ownership. 
  • Unlicensed, unregistered, or improper business practices included in claims brought by the Business Integrity Commission, such as failure to properly label contains or disposing of trade waste improperly.
  • Real estate challenges brought by the Department of Buildings or the Department of Housing and Preservation Development. These include cases involving New York City’s padlock, single-room occupancy, and loft law. 
  • Prevailing wage questions raised by the Comptroller when an employer is believed to have violated New York City’s fair wage rules. These cases may be brought directly by the Comptroller’s office or by the Comptroller’s office on behalf of a union. 
  • Vehicle and other property seizure cases happen when property is seized due to a suspected connection to a crime. 
  • Election-related issues such as lobbying and campaign finance rule violations.
  • Human and civil rights questions, including discrimination cases, paid sick leave, and consumer and worker protections. 

The most common reason ordinary New Yorkers appear before OATH is that they’ve received a ticket or violation from a city agency, such as the New York Police Department (NYPD) or the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. For example, you may face an OATH case for allegations like:

  • Traffic accidents involving pedestrians,
  • Environmental protection violations like construction noise, smog, or running hydrants,
  • Noise violations,
  • Disposing of your garbage improperly, 
  • Having an expired business permit. 

OATH hearings may also provide a recommended decision to the head of an agency. The recommendation may lay out the applicable law and explain the consequences of various decisions to the head of the agency. The agency head, however, will make the final decision. 

Since OATH handles a wide range of cases and hearings, the basis for a particular OATH proceeding can be difficult to predict. Discussing your case with an experienced attorney can help you choose the best course of action toward the resolution you wish to obtain.

What to Expect in an OATH Hearing

OATH hearings are open to the public. Many of their rules and procedures parallel those found in traditional courtroom trials. For example, both parties in an OATH hearing give opening statements, offer evidence to build their respective cases, cross-examine one another, and provide closing arguments to summarize their case and persuade the judge to rule in their favor. 

Many OATH violations can be resolved in one of three ways:

  • Fix the conditions listed on the violation and provide evidence that the correction was made,
  • Attend an OATH violation hearing to contest the violation or enter a guilty plea, or
  • Pay any applicable fines or penalties. 

Before you choose one of these three options, speaking to an experienced OATH hearing attorney is valuable. A lawyer can explain which options are available to you. You can ask questions and learn about the consequences of each available choice. With this information, you can make a more informed decision about your next step. 

Steps in an OATH Hearing

OATH hearings typically proceed predictably. First, you’ll arrive at the OATH court to which you were summoned. You and your attorney will meet with the hearing officer. The hearing officer is responsible for hearing the evidence and making a decision based on that evidence. 

Your attorney will present evidence to build a case in your favor. The type of evidence used depends on the specific facts of your case. OATH hearings often include evidence like reports, photographs, and receipts. 

You and your attorney may also decide to present witness testimony to help support your case. Often, the officer who issued your ticket or summons may appear to testify against you. Your attorney will prepare for this testimony and work to expose any inconsistencies or unanswered questions. 

Many OATH hearings are resolved the same day they are held. In complex hearings, the hearing officer may take up to 30 days to consider the evidence, review the law, and issue a decision. 

Appeals from OATH Hearing Decisions

While hearing officers try to apply the law fairly and consistently, they may make mistakes. If the outcome of your hearing seems incorrect or unfair, the OATH hearing rules allow for an appeal. Section 6-19 of the hearing division rules of practice state that “an appeal will be considered by the Tribunal” if certain conditions are met.

  • The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the hearing officer’s decision (or 35 days if the decision was sent by mail). The filing must include proof that the party filing it also served a copy to the non-filing party.
  • The appeal must state the issues specifically and in writing. 
  • The appeal must state whether any fines, penalties, or restitution have been fully paid unless certain exceptions apply.

Only certain decisions can be appealed. A decision made on default, a denial of a motion to vacate a default, or a plea that admits to the violations cannot be appealed. Working with an attorney can help you avoid these pitfalls and preserve your right to appeal. 

Appeals are heard by the Appeals Unit. The Appeals Unit reviews the evidence presented at the hearing to determine whether the hearing officer’s findings are supported by evidence in the record. The Appeals Unit does not hear new evidence except in limited circumstances. 

The Appeals Unit can affirm a hearing officer’s decision, reverse it, remand the case for a new hearing, or modify the hearing officer’s decision, depending on what the Appeals Unit finds when it examines the evidence. Decisions made by the Appeals Unit are issued in writing. 

Talk to an experienced attorney if you have questions about the appeal process. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a valid appeal. Your lawyer can also start the appeal process if you choose. 

Choosing an Experienced New York OATH Attorney

Navigating a hearing or trial before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings can be nerve-wracking. The attorneys at the Brill Legal Group have years of experience with OATH proceedings. We understand the trials and procedures involved and can help you navigate every step.

If you are under investigation or are facing OATH proceedings, call us today for a free and confidential consultation.

Just when I was getting discouraged and was at my wits end trying to find the right attorney for my case, a family member recommended Mr. Brill. He did not disappoint. Mr. Brill and his team are diligent, very professional, encouraging and honest every step of the way. Highly recommended.

- A.S.