You probably know that under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” While the Fifth Amendment only applies to the federal government, the Fourteenth Amendment provides identical protections from unfair deprivation of those things by a state.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is a body of the state of Illinois.
Your professional license is your property. In many respects, it is also your life and liberty. It is what allows you to fulfill your life’s work and provide for your family.
It certainly should be. But it most definitely isn’t in a number of key respects.
If you receive notice from the IDFPR that you are under investigation or that disciplinary proceedings have been commenced against you, don’t count on the IDFPR to be looking after your rights. Don’t think that you will be provided with the same due process protections that you would receive in a criminal prosecution or the broad rights to seek and obtain evidence that you would get in a civil lawsuit.
The IDFPR Can Limit Your Ability to Defend Yourself
The IDFPR’s procedural rules and practices put licensees at a sometimes crippling disadvantage in disciplinary proceedings. Perhaps the biggest example of this unfairness is the discovery process.
The process of investigating, obtaining evidence, and eliciting testimony relevant to a case – whether it be a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding like IDFPR disciplinary hearings – is known as “discovery.” It’s how the parties find out the facts, whether they help or hurt their respective cases. It is a fundamental aspect of fairness, and if a party is not permitted to fully develop the evidence necessary to support their case or challenge the evidence obtained by the other side, it is an inherently unfair process.
In formal IDFPR disciplinary proceedings, the licensee’s ability to pursue the discovery necessary to defend themselves is extremely limited. In fact, the extent of allowable discovery is determined by the very people who are prosecuting the case. Once the Department provides names of witnesses, including the name of any individual whose complaint may be at the heart of the proceedings, a respondent cannot take their depositions unless the Department’s attorney agrees. If the Department nixes a deposition request, that means the respondent will not be able to confront that witness, learn what his testimony will be, or attack the veracity of his testimony until the actual hearing. That is manifestly unjust and leaves a respondent and their attorney fighting with one arm tied behind their back.
Similarly, if there are witnesses that the licensee wishes to subpoena for testimony, those subpoenas have to be authorized and approved by the Department. Again, the very people seeking to deprive someone of their professional license can also deprive them of their ability to defend themselves.
Hearing Officers Are Not Independent
While it is the job of IDFPR’s prosecuting attorneys to enforce professional regulations and pursue disciplinary action against licensees, it is the hearing officer’s job to preside over those proceedings fairly and objectively without favoritism or bias. The problem is the hearing officers are not independent. They are employed and paid by the IDFPR, just as the prosecuting attorneys are. Whether a hearing officer is consciously biased or not, the fact that their paychecks are coming from the very same folks who are seeking to discipline a respondent creates an implicit conflict of interest and calls into question the fairness of the entire process.
With the deck so stacked against licensees, it is absolutely crucial that you retain an experienced IDFPR defense attorney to defend your rights, your license, and your livelihood if you find yourself in the Department’s sights.
Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney
The moment you are contacted by IDFPR or learn that you are under investigation is the moment that you should contact me. I will immediately begin communicating with IDFPR prosecutors and work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to you clients and your career.
Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.