Your CACI Lawyer’s Forgotten Role

Your CACI Lawyer’s First Role: Adviser to You

You’re looking for a lawyer to represent you in your CACI grievance hearing. And you want someone you think will do a good job representing you. You want someone who will present a strong case in your favor. You want your lawyer to fight for you. You want your lawyer in your corner.

All of those are good and reasonable expectations…and slightly misguided.

Don’t get me wrong, your lawyer’s job is to represent you in the best and strongest way possible. Your lawyer’s obligation is to you.

Your CACI Lawyer’s Second Role: Adviser to the Hearing Officer

Having said that, your lawyer has an additional role that you need to take just as seriously: that of trusted adviser to the hearing officer who will be deciding your case. Only by being a trusted adviser to the hearing officer can your lawyer provide the best representation for you.

Think about it. You’re sitting in the CACI grievance hearing with your lawyer sitting at your side. The hearing officer (aka, the judge of your hearing) is sitting at the head of the table. County counsel, the lawyer representing the child welfare agency accusing you of child abuse, is sitting across the table from you. After all the exhibits have been discussed and the witnesses have testified, your lawyer and county counsel are now going to give their closing arguments—they’ll present their recommendations to hearing officer as to whether or not you should be removed from the Child Abuse Central Index.

Let me repeat that: your lawyer and the CPS lawyer will be giving the hearing officer their recommendations as to how to decide your case.

The Hearing Officer’s Perspective

Now imagine yourself as the hearing officer. You have two opposing sides presenting their case. Obviously, each side is going to present their case as forcefully as they can. You will expect them to be completely one-sided. You will expect them to have tunnel vision, seeing the case only from their own perspective.

And where does that leave you, the hearing officer? You pretty much sit by yourself in this ordeal, a lone wolf. You don’t have anyone on your side.

You feel like you’ve got two used car salesmen pressuring you into buying two different cars. And worse yet, each of them is purporting to be giving you a recommendation as to how you should act.

But you’re no dummy. You’re a CACI hearing officer. You’re experienced in CACI hearings. You’re knowledgeable. You’ve gone through all of this before. Who do these two used car salesmen think they are? Why should you give any weight at all to either of their recommendations? They’re not smarter than you, more knowledgeable than you, nor more experienced than you?

You wouldn’t take go to a plumber seeking recommendations on which mutual funds to invest in. Why would you listen to the recommendations from these two lawyers who are fighting it out and can’t agree on anything? Here’s the answer: you won’t!

And neither will the hearing officer in your case. Unless…

Who Does the Hearing Officer Trust?

…the hearing officer knows that the lawyer giving the recommendation is someone just as fair, objective, reasonable, knowledgeable, well-reasoned, and experienced as himself.

If the lawyer has never done a Child Abuse Central Index hearing before, and the hearing officer has done hundreds, is the hearing officer likely to give the lawyer’s recommendation much respect?

If the lawyer knows everything there is to know about divorce and family law, but little about child abuse laws, is the hearing officer likely to give the lawyer’s recommendation much weight?

If the lawyer has many years of experience in juvenile dependency court (where the Welfare & Institutions Code applies), but little experience in administrative proceedings (where the state regulations governing CACI hearings applies), is the hearing officer likely to rely on the lawyer’s recommendation?

What This Means for You

If your hearing officer isn’t going to give any weight or consideration to anything your lawyer says, if your hearing officer is going to just shrug off the recommendation your lawyer makes and decides your case on his own…then what’s the point of having a lawyer to begin with? It’s all been a waste.

You need a lawyer who can and will be a trusted adviser to the hearing officer. A lawyer who is just as, or more knowledgeable than, the hearing officer is about the child abuse laws as they relate to the Child Abuse Central Index. A lawyer whom the hearing officer perceives as a reasonable interpreter of the facts and the law in your case. A lawyer whom the hearing officer knows will demonstrate some objectivity.

The hearing officer will do his best to be objective and unbiased toward either side. That is his job. That is his role. If the hearing officer does not perceive your lawyer’s recommendation to be fair and objective, the hearing officer will ignore it because a biased recommendation does not help the hearing officer accomplish his job.

Your CACI Lawyer

As a dedicated CACI lawyer, I am quite experienced and knowledgeable about the laws, procedures, and factual scenarios related to CACI grievance hearings.

Here’s a subtle illustration: When I’m in CACI grievance hearings, I often hear comments from county counsel and hearing officers that they have looked over my website (this website, that you’re reading right now) and found it to be quite informative. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in CACI grievance hearings when the county counsel (the attorney representing the child welfare agency) makes recommendations to the hearing officer using my summaries of the applicable laws and procedures. It has happened many times. The CPS lawyers do that because they come into the CACI grievance hearing not knowing the law themselves…but they know that I do know the law, so they just rely on my presentation of the law as being correct.

When the hearing officer sees that county counsel is basing his argument on your lawyer’s legal analysis, doesn’t that suggest to the hearing officer that county counsel must trust your lawyer’s position on the legal issues? If county counsel accepts your lawyer’s recommendation on the legal issues…don’t you think the hearing officer must figure that he can trust your lawyer’s legal arguments as well? In this scenario, whose recommendation do you think the hearing officer is going to give the most weight: county counsel’s or your lawyer’s?