LAW 778

Dog Administrative Hearings Clinic

Clinic webpage: This four-unit clinic, focused on complaint proceedings involving dogs in the City of Los Angeles, enables participants to conduct real hearings. In their role as hearing examiners, clinic participants admit or reject documentary and oral testimony, evaluate the reliability and applicability of various pieces of evidence, analyze facts in relation to statutory factors, and write persuasive recommendations from the perspective of a fact-finder and decision-maker. Some clinic participants have said that clinic participation helped them to think about whether they would want to become a judge; all clinic participants have said that the opportunity to view things from the perspective of a judge was helpful, regardless of their career objectives.

The substantive legal context for this clinic is administrative “potentially dangerous animal” and nuisance (barking dog) complaint proceedings conducted at the headquarters of the City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services (“LAAS”). Since Los Angeles is a “no-kill” city, the primary goal in processing complaint proceedings is to keep dogs with their human families and to promote responsible pet ownership, in accordance with legal requirements. The easily accessible subject matter—complaints about potentially dangerous and nuisance (barking) dog cases—allows clinic participants to focus on practicing important and transferable practical legal skills. These include legal interviewing/questioning technique, assessing credibility of witnesses, distilling relevant facts from far-ranging testimony, and putting together various types of documentary evidence and oral testimony to produce a persuasive, fair legal argument.

After receiving sufficient training in LAAS administrative hearing procedure, eliciting oral and written testimony, evaluating evidence, conducting hearings, and writing reports on findings and recommendations, clinic participants are appointed to serve as hearing examiners. One particularly interesting, challenging, and rewarding aspect of the course is developing case-specific “terms and conditions of ownership” designed to reduce the probability of problematic behaviors. This requires close attention to the facts of each case and creative consideration of alternative solutions.

During the training period of approximately 4 weeks, class will meet every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 pm at UCLA Law or downtown at Los Angeles Animal Services. Topics we will cover during training include the following: relevant laws, requirements of a fair administrative law hearing, questioning of witnesses to develop a complete record from which to analyze the statutory factors, consideration of terms and conditions that can be placed on owners for continued ownership of their dogs, how to write legally sufficient reports, and how to construct the file that goes to the General Manager. Clinic participants will also observe LAAS hearings and conduct simulation hearings as part of their training to become hearing examiners.

Hearing days:
After completion of the training period, participants will begin working in pairs to conduct two LAAS hearings on Friday every other week. Due to this schedule of alternating Fridays at LAAS, clinic participants will not be able to take any other course that meets on Fridays, although they may arrange an alternating Friday work schedule with an employer.

On hearing days, one hearing will take place in the morning, and one will take place in the early afternoon. One clinic participant is the primary hearing examiner in the morning, while another clinic participant serves as the secondary hearing examiner. In the afternoon hearing, their roles are reversed. After the two hearings on each Friday, each clinic participant will take responsibility for the report for which they were the primary hearing examiner. The report will include recommended actions to be taken by the General Manager of LAAS. The report is based on a straightforward template provided by LAAS.

Clinic Coursework at UCLA Law:
Participants will also meet for class at UCLA Law every other Wednesday (beginning after the 4th week) for discussion of cases and participant skills necessary to conduct hearings and to write legally sufficient reports.

Class and hearing attendance, including participation in the training, are essential. Clinic participants will receive one letter grade for all four units of credit at the end of the semester. The grade is based on successful completion of all the requirements, including hearing attendance, report quality, meeting production deadlines, and participation in classes at UCLA Law and in discussions at LAAS.

Course Requirements:
There are no course prerequisites for this class, but there is an LAAS-required application procedure and work agreement. Enrollment is limited to six students. Since this course involves live client work for which there is a lot of detailed planning by LAAS staff and collaborative work with other clinic participants, participants may not drop the class after the first week of class without permission of the instructor.

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