The Hearing Process

Hearing Process

You request a hearing
(To appeal a decision or contest charges made against you)

Scheduling order sent
(Sets hearing dates and deadlines)

(Parties gather information for hearing)

(Parties may make requests of the judge.)

Prehearing conference
(Parties meet to prepare for hearing.)

(Parties present exhibits, testimony and arguments.)

Written Decision
(Outcome of case is announced)

Requesting a hearing

There are two reasons for requesting a hearing.

  • You disagree with a formal Department of Health order or decision. You may appeal the decision by sending us (Adjudicative Service Unit) a letter. All filings must be copied to the other party in your case. The other party is the Department of Health program whose decision you are appealing. Once we receive your appeal, we will send both sides in the case a scheduling order.
  • You are a health professional and you have received a statement of charges. You can request a hearing by sending us (Adjudicative Service Unit) an Answer to the Statement of Charges within 20 days of the date the Statement of Charges was served on you. You received an answer form with the Statement of Charges. When you send us your answer form, or any other information, you must also send a copy to the assistant attorney general listed in the Notice of Opportunity for Settlement and Hearing that you received with the Statement of Charges. After we receive your answer form, we will issue a Scheduling Order.

Scheduling Order

If a case is to be scheduled for a hearing, we will issue a Scheduling Order/Notice that lists critical dates and deadlines.


Discovery is the process during which the parties are allowed to obtain information from each other and the witnesses in order to prepare for the hearing.

During discovery the parties may request documents, interview witnesses and depose witnesses. The parties may use other methods to gather information if the Health Law Judge approves. Disputes and issues that can arise during the discovery process include access to records, access to witnesses and the scope of discovery. If the parties are unable to resolve a dispute, they may file a motion with the Adjudicative Service Unit.

The parties must complete the exchange of information by the discovery cut-off date contained in the Scheduling Order.


A motion is a party's oral or written request for the judge or presiding officer to make a decision or direct an action that favors the party making the motion. Dispositive motions are motions that, if granted, will dispose of the case. The Scheduling Order contains a specific deadline for making dispositive motions. All other motions must be made before the "all other" motions cutoff date set in the Scheduling Order. The procedure for making a motion is stated in the Washington Administrative Rules, WAC 246-10-403 and WAC 246-11-380.

Prehearing Conference

A prehearing conference is a meeting of the parties and the presiding officer. During the conference, the presiding officer reviews matters in preparation for the hearing, including the following topics:

  • Issues to be considered at the hearing.
  • Facts which are admitted or not contested.
  • Identification of exhibits that will be admitted at the hearing.
  • Identification of expert and lay witnesses.
  • Outstanding motions that have been filed.

The purpose of the prehearing conference is to prepare the parties for the hearing and to ensure that the hearing is completed on the scheduled hearing date. The procedure for a prehearing conference is stated in Washington Administrative Rules, WAC 246-10-404 and WAC 246-11-390.

Before the prehearing conference, the parties are required to file a prehearing statement which includes a list of all the witnesses and exhibits. (See deadline in scheduling order.)

If a party does not attend the prehearing conference, they will be considered in default, and an Order of Default may be issued.

Order Defining Conduct at Hearing

After the prehearing conference, the Health Law Judge will issue a Prehearing Order Defining Conduct at Hearing. This order establishes the procedure for the hearing.


A hearing is a formal meeting before a decision-maker where issues of fact and law are tried. Each party has the opportunity to present their witnesses and exhibits and to question the witnesses about issues of fact. At the end of the hearing, each party can present an argument to the presiding officer and/or board as to what should be the appropriate decision. Argument must be based on the evidence presented. A court reporter attends the hearing to record the proceeding. Generally, the hearing is open to the public.


Decisions will be in writing and are generally served upon the parties within 45-90 days after the hearing. The decision-maker uses the sanctions in health profession discipline cases. The Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission also has its own guidelines.