Representing Yourself at an Informal Hearing
- An Informal Hearing is a proceeding conducted pursuant to section 120.57(2), Florida Statutes, and rule 28-106, Parts I and III, Florida Administrative Code. In this type of proceeding, you are not disputing the facts in a denial letter or other charging document. An Informal Hearing provides you the opportunity to explain your situation, to present mitigating information, or provide legal argument as to why the Agency should not do what it already has notified you it intends to do. The hearing will be conducted by an Informal Hearing Officer who is appointed by the Office's Commissioner. The Informal Hearing Officer's role is to provide for the orderly presentation of the case, to evaluate the testimony and documentary evidence, and to make an objective recommendation to the Office's Commissioner as to how the case should be decided based on the facts and the law.
- You may hire an attorney, at your expense, to represent you, or you may present your case yourself. You also may ask a non-lawyer you trust to present your case for you.
- When an Informal Hearing is granted, the Office will enter an Order, signed by the Commissioner, appointing an Informal Hearing Officer. You will receive a copy of the Order. The Informal Hearing Officer will then send out an Order to you and the Agency's attorney requesting information for scheduling and coordination purposes. If you requested an oral hearing, you will be asked to submit the following information: a proposed location, suggested dates, and the amount of time you anticipate it will take to present your case. If you do not request an oral hearing, the matter will proceed on written statements provided by you and the Agency attorney.
- If an oral hearing is to be held, the Informal Hearing Officer will send you a Notice of Hearing which will provide the date, time, and location for the hearing. The Office conducts hearings in Tallahassee and various other locations throughout the state. The Office will attempt to schedule the hearing at a location in a state office building or similar facility as close as possible to your preferred location. The Office attorney may appear telephonically from his or her office in Tallahassee or another regional office.
Preparing for the Hearing
- Make a list of all the information which relates to your case and which you wish to present. Have sufficient copies of your documents so that you can provide the Agency attorney and the Informal Hearing Officer with copies.
- You should notify any persons you wish to have testify on your behalf early so they can plan to attend the hearing.
At the Hearing
- Before the presentation of any evidence, the Informal Hearing Officer will explain the procedures that will be followed.
- You and the Office's attorney each will have the opportunity to make a brief opening statement, which in two or three sentences states your position.
- A court reporter will be present to swear in any witnesses prior to taking their testimony.
- Each party will have the opportunity present their documents, and to question any witnesses called to testify.
- The court reporter will record everything that is said during the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, you will be asked if you wish to order a transcription of the record. The cost of the transcript will be at your expense. In the alternative, if the Office's attorney orders a transcript, you may pay for a copy.
After the Hearing
- You and the Office's attorney each will have the opportunity to submit Proposed Recommended Orders, which are your written statements of how you contend the case should be decided based on the evidence presented at the hearing. The Informal Hearing Officer will set a time period in which the Proposed Recommended Orders must be submitted.
- After receiving the Proposed Recommended Orders, the Informal Hearing Officer will issue his or her Recommended Order, which is the Informal Hearing Officer's recommendation to the Agency as to how the matter should be resolved based on the evidence presented at the hearing and the law. The Agency will issue a Final Order, which is a final decision of the Agency, within 90 days of the hearing.
- If you are disappointed with the Final Order, you may appeal the Order to a Florida District Court of Appeal in the manner provided in the Notice of Right to Judicial Review that will be attached to the Final Order.
- No ex parte communications are permitted during this proceeding. That means neither you nor the Office's attorney may communicate separately with the Informal Hearing Officer about your case.
- Timely notify the Office's attorney and the Informal Hearing Officer of any changes in availability for the hearing. If you fail to attend the hearing, a Recommended Order will be issued without any testimony or other evidence provided by you.
- Similarly, if you are going to be late for the hearing, contact the Agency Clerk and she will notify the Informal Hearing Officer as to your situation.
This document is provided as a general overview of the informal hearing procedure as conducted by the Office of Financial Regulation. It is not meant to include all circumstances that may arise, nor is it to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions regarding the informal hearing procedure, you should seek advice from an attorney of your choice. In the alternative, you may communicate with the Office's attorney assigned to your case on procedural matters, but keep in mind that the Office's attorney does not represent you and cannot give you legal advice.