The Law Office of Gould & Hahn has specialized in defending facilities that are licensed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) since 1995. The Firm has actively and aggressively represented the owners and administrators of family child care homes, childcare centers, foster family homes, adult residential facilities, adult day programs, and residential facilities for the elderly. We are prepared to put our knowledge and experience to work for you.
The Department of Social Services is one of the largest agencies in the State and, through its Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD), is responsible for the licensing and regulation of over 85,000 facilities. This includes making facility information available to the public online. Interaction with the CDSS and CCLD can take a variety of forms, such as periodic or annual facility evaluations, complaint investigations, noncompliance conferences, and license disciplinary actions. It is important that licensees fully understand their rights and responsibilities in each of these situations. The experienced legal team at Gould & Hahn has a long history of working with CDSS and CCLD personnel and understands the importance of maintaining a productive relationship between licensees and agency staff during these critical interactions.
The licensing and operation of Department-licensed facilities is governed by numerous statutes and regulations, including those found in the Health & Safety Code and the California Code of Regulations. It is the licensee’s responsibility to understand and comply with these rules, as well as be aware of the frequent legislative changes in the law. Gould & Hahn is familiar with the applicable regulations and statutes concerning Department-licensed facilities and can assist licensees in understanding the law and ensuring compliant operation.
When the CDSS or CCLD believe a facility or their staff have failed to comply with the applicable regulations and statutes, Licensing may issue citations or notices of deficiency, civil penalty assessments, and in some cases disciplinary actions to revoke a license or certificate. Defending licensees and administrators against these allegations require a specific and specialized understanding of the law, as well as familiarity with the licensing personnel responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance.
When a Community Care Licensing staff, typically a Licensing Program Analyst (LPA), believes a licensed facility has not complied with a law or regulation, he or she will issue a citation or notice of deficiency. When issuing a citation, the LPA is required by law to describe the deficiency, including the statute or regulation violated and the specific area of the facility or way in which the deficiency occurred. Citations may be the result of either an annual visit, an unannounced visit, or the investigation of a specific complaint. A facility’s record of citations is available to the public and may eventually form the basis for a disciplinary action to revoke the facility’s license. As such, it is very important that licensees fully understand the appeal process and their rights.
Citations must be appealed within fifteen business days of the date the citation is issued. While licensees are entitled to two levels of appeal, CCLD may refuse to review an appeal that is not filed within the brief and strict time period. Using our specific knowledge of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations as well as other applicable law, Gould & Hahn can prepare and file citation appeals on behalf of licensees to ensure that a complete and accurate record is created and their right to an appeal is preserved.
Licensees may also be required to pay civil penalties when citations are issued. When conducting a licensing evaluation or complaint investigation, CCLD personnel are authorized to issue fines for serious or repeated deficiencies. In some cases, civil penalties can amount to an assessment of thousands of dollars, and failure to pay these fines may be grounds for the filing of an Accusation to revoke a facility’s license. Civil penalties can also be appealed, and the legal professionals at Gould & Hahn can assist you in preparing and filing a timely appeal.
In some cases, the Department will file an Accusation seeking the revocation of a facility license or administrator certificate, as well as an exclusion action preventing an individual from being present in or employed by a Department-licensed facility. An Accusation contains all of the unproven allegations of wrongdoing upon which the Department will proceed. The Accusation is a public document and is available to your clients, family members, the public at large, and all State and Federal governmental agencies.
When an Accusation is filed, the Department will notify the licensee by Certified Mail. The licensee then has a limited window in which to respond. A licensee has only fifteen days to file a Notice of Defense requesting a hearing on the allegations contained in the Accusation. If the licensee does not receive the Accusation and/or does not respond to the Accusation, the Department will issue a default Decision and Order revoking the facility’s license without a hearing. It is extremely important that licensees pay close attention to all mail or Certified Mail delivery notices. If you receive an Accusation from the Department, please contact our office immediately. This severe disciplinary action requires both an immediate response and competent and experienced legal counsel.
The Accusation phase of the disciplinary process usually takes several months. During this period, Gould & Hahn will have an opportunity to negotiate a resolution of your case in an effort to avoid the emotional and financial expense of a contested administrative hearing. The Department has the authority to settle your case before hearing and many cases are resolved during the settlement process. Your attorney at Gould & Hahn will work closely with you to present the facts of your case that justify your right to a fair settlement. After evaluating your evidence, your attorney will negotiate directly with the Department’s attorney in an effort to reach a settlement agreement resolving the case. If the Department offers terms and conditions of settlement that are satisfactory, the case will be settled without the need for an administrative hearing. If the Department fails to offer acceptable settlement terms, the case will proceed to the hearing.
Determining whether to proceed to an administrative hearing is a significant decision that you must carefully consider in consultation with your experienced licensing attorney. The hearing is held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) alone. There is no jury. The ALJ does not, however, have the final authority in administrative law. Final authority rests solely with the Department. The ALJ will issue a Proposed Decision. This Proposed Decision is not binding on the Department, meaning, you could prevail at the hearing, and the Department could reject the ALJ’s Proposed Decision and issue its own decision disciplining your license. When evaluating whether to proceed to a hearing, it is essential that you consult with your attorney and understand the nature of a Proposed Decision and your options for appeal in the event that the Department rejects the Judge’s Proposed Decision.
The attorneys at Gould & Hahn are familiar with nearly every circumstance and outcome in the administrative hearing process. Our legal team has represented Department-licensed facilities at numerous administrative hearings and is prepared to put its knowledge and experience to work for you. Administrative law is unlike criminal or civil law and it is important that you are represented by an attorney who is experienced and specializes in administrative hearings to ensure the best outcome.
In addition to representing facility licensees before the CDSS, Gould & Hahn also specializes in defending licensed facilities facing wage and hour claims before the Department of Labor and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, as well as actions before the Unemployment Appeals Board. To learn more about our representation of licensed employers, click on Labor Law & Employer Advice found under Professional Legal Services.
Gould & Hahn assists individuals, businesses, and developers to lease, sell, buy, or develop assisted living facilities in California. As our population continues to age, there is an increased demand for assisted living facilities to care for the aged. Gould & Hahn specializes in preventing unnecessary delays, additional expenses, and litigation risks associated with the sale or development of licensed real property and is expert in expediting complex real estate and business transactions involving licensed facilities.
Because a license is required to operate a residential facility, the Department of Social Services and the Legislature have drafted very specific statutes and regulations that apply when selling or purchasing a facility. Licenses are not transferable; therefore the buyer of a facility must apply for and obtain a new license from the Department before the ownership of the facility can be transferred. The application process can take months, and in some cases, the Department may deny the buyer’s application. It is important that both the buyer and seller are aware of the very specific requirements concerning the transfer of ownership of a licensed facility in order to avoid the possible forfeiture of the license.
The sale or purchase of a licensed facility presents additional issues that must be carefully considered in order to protect your investment and comply with the law. It is essential that you retain legal counsel that is experienced and familiar with this specialized area of law and has the knowledge to foresee potential problems and protect you should such problems arise. The attorneys at Gould & Hahn are some the most experienced in the State in this area of law and have been assisting clients in the successful sale and purchase of licensed facilities since 1995. If you are thinking of buying or selling a facility, call Gould & Hahn to discuss how we can assist you.