A recent case involving revocation of a nurse’s license illustrates the importance of keeping licensing authorities updated with your current mailing address and checking your mail regularly. All legal proceedings involve deadlines. If a deadline passes without you taking necessary action your legal rights may be severely limited and serious consequences may result.
In Hansen v. Board of Registered Nursing the issue was whether Hansen could challenge a decision of the Board to revoke her nursing license. Unfortunately, the general facts are not uncommon – Hansen failed to notify the Board of her current mailing address and, as a result, she was not timely notified of administrative proceedings against her license or of the Boards decision to revoke it. The result: Hansen’s license was revoked and she was prevented from challenging that decision.
In 2009 Hansen spoke with a representative of the Board and agreed to participate in a diversion program for nurses having problems with alcohol. Hansen later refused to enrolled in the program. The Board then filed an accusation charging Hansen with unprofessional conduct and sought suspension or revocation of her nursing license. The accusation alleged Hansen engaged in unprofessional conduct by failing to participate in the diversion program and by using alcohol to an extent dangerous to herself or others.
On October 1, 2010 the Board mailed a copy of the accusation to Hansen at her address of record. However, Hansen had moved from that address in July 2009. As a result, Hansen did not timely receive a copy of the accusation and resolution of the accusation proceeded by way of default. The Board issued a decision finding the allegations of the accusation true and revoked Hansen’s license effective January 24, 2011. A copy of the decision was mailed to Hansen on December 22, 2010.
Hansen claimed that she first learned of the Board’s decision on February 27, 2011 while viewing the Board’s website. Thereafter Hansen filed a motion with the Board seeking to vacate or reconsider its decision. The motion was denied because the order of revocation had become final 30 days after it was mailed, or on January 21, 2011, pursuant to Government Code section 11521.
Thereafter, Hansen filed a petition with the Superior Court to set-aside the Board’s decision. However, Government Code section 11523 provides that unless the licensee timely requests preparation of the administrative record, the licensee must file a petition for writ of administrative mandate within 30 days of the last day for reconsideration if she wishes to challenge the Board’s decision in court. Since the Board did not grant a stay to allow Hansen to apply for reconsideration, its power to order reconsideration expired on January 21, 2011, 30 days after it mailed its decision. Hansen therefore had 30 days from that date, i.e., until February 21, 2011 (because Feb. 20, 2011, was a Sunday), to file her petition for writ of mandate. She did not, however, file the petition until May 20, 2011. Hence, Hansen “was late; she was not entitled to any relief as a matter of law.”
The take-away: Keep licensing authorities updated with current contact information. Check your mail regularly and retrieve certified mail. All legal proceedings have deadlines which can be very short. The time to seek legal advice is as soon as you are contacted by a licensing agency. If Hansen had retained legal counsel early on her attorney would have received timely notification of the proceedings being taken against her and Hansen would have been able to defend herself.