Hearsay in Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearings

What occurs during judicial proceedings (conducted by the courts) and administrative hearings (conducted by, for instance, a child welfare agency) are two completely different kettles of fish.

The standards of evidence you might be familiar with seeing on television or reading about are generally applied to a judicial setting.

But your Child Abuse Central Index grievance hearing won’t take place in court. Instead, it will be the local county child welfare agency that will be deciding your case in an administrative hearing.

What you need to know is that the standard of evidence that applies in court is not the same one that applies in Child Abuse Central Index administrative hearings.

For instance, in administrative hearings, exceptions are made for hearsay to be presented as legitimate evidence. Hearsay is not excluded from evidence in Child Abuse Central Index grievance hearings.

This rule applies to both parties. However, the rule often favors the child welfare agencies. The counties’ arguments tend to be bolstered by presenting hearsay evidence.

On the other hand, we have ways to make it work to our advantage.

Either way, knowing what you’re up against will help prepare you for the fight ahead.

How is Hearsay Allowed in Administrative Hearings?

As we discuss this topic, we’ll get the help of the following article: Stephen D. Natcher, Hearsay under the Administrative Procedure Act, 15 Hastings L.J. 369 (1964).

Hearsay is any statement made outside of a trial setting and then presented during trial to try to prove the truth of the statement.

The hearsay rule exists because it is not fair to allow one party to present evidence that the opposing party cannot test or criticize without the opportunity to cross-examine the person who made the statement. The hearsay rule exists because the best way to find out whether a statement is valuable vs. questionable evidence is to really test it, under cross examination. It's meant to prevent a person from misleading those who make the final decision in the hearing.

There are, however, exceptions to the hearsay rule. Exceptions exist when there’s some sort of safeguard that assures us of the validity of the statement that would otherwise be hearsay. Statements that fit within a hearsay exception are allowed to be presented in a trial or hearing even though the opposing party can't cross-examine the person who made the statement.

In administrative hearings, the hearing officer is supposed to be an “expert” in the topic that’s being fought over. So, for instance, in Child Abuse Central Index grievance hearings, the hearing officer should be very well-versed in all issues relating to child abuse.

The reason why hearsay is allowed in administrative hearings is because the hearing officers are presumed to be expert enough to know what sort of statements are reliable vs. unreliable, in the context of child abuse, for instance.

Hearsay doesn’t just include verbal statements though; hearsay can even be a document filled out by a witness, who doesn’t have to show up in person.

Does the Administrative Procedure Act Have Precedence in California?

In sections 11513(c) and 11513(d) of California's Government Code, there are restrictions on evidence admissibility in administrative proceedings. The evidence must be relevant and the sort of evidence responsible people would be able to rely on it "in the conduct of serious affairs."

Also, hearsay evidence may be used for the purpose of supplementing or explaining other evidence. (A critical exception here is if the other party objects to the hearsay, the hearsay evidence must be supported by some other evidence and cannot be used by itself to make a finding against you.)

When the California Legal System Ruled Against Hearsay

A specific provision came into play in California before Government Code section 11513(c) was even enacted, in the case of Walker v. the City of San Gabriel.

There was only one piece of evidence presented to support the city's wish to revoke the license of an auto wrecking business during the proceedings. It was a letter from the chief of police which outlined various violations of city codes by the wrecking business. Beyond that, not a single witness was asked to testify.

The court’s final ruling was that the board couldn't take away the license with the sole evidence only being hearsay. This, the court decided, would be an outright abuse of discretion.

So, in administrative hearings, the general rule is that hearsay evidence may be used when it is strengthened, supported or corroborated by other evidence.

What Are Potential Problems with California's Administrative Hearings?

There are distinct problems with the rules we’ve discussed:

  1. Given the findings in the Walker case, there's still a complicated standard by which evidence is evaluated during administrative proceedings without a jury of regular people. When rules of evidence are relied on in administrative proceedings, it turns them into more of a judicial hearing.
  2. California's government code allows for weak evidence to be presented in a supplemental fashion, which is inherently unfair and unjust.

See Ronald Kenneth Leo Collins, The Sufficiency of Uncorroborated Hearsay in Administrative Proceedings: The California Rule, 8 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 632 (1975).

In most instances, county agencies will be far more versed in the rules that apply in administrative hearings than the individuals opposing them (especially when those individuals do not have a CACI lawyer by their side).

Can You Use Hearsay to Your Advantage During Administrative Proceedings?

The odds may seem stacked against you when you're facing a Child Abuse Central Index administrative grievance hearing. But if you understand the rules and guidelines involved, you can prepare for the proceedings accordingly, and more thoroughly.

No one will blame you if you think there is something inherently awry, allowing such questionable hearsay evidence to hold such weight during administrative proceedings. After all, a CACI hearing is an important hearing involving important issues with potentially long-lasting, real-life impact on your life and the lives of your family members. Given all that's on the line, the rules of evidence should reflect what occurs during judicial scenarios.

Since you're defending your reputation, an agency working against you shouldn't damage your life with questionable, otherwise-non-admissible evidence.