If you received a citation for a licensing violation and you contested the citation within the required time frame, the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) will likely refer you to what is called a “Mandatory Settlement Conference.” This is done in an attempt to (at least partially) resolve your violation without going to a full-blown Hearing, which is basically a mini-trial.
If the CSLB tells you to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference, you must attend. Generally, this takes place in the CSLB office located in Sacramento. You will need to bring a form of government-issued identification (driver’s license or a passport, for example). Also bring a copy of the notice to attend the Mandatory Settlement Conference.
You will check in downstairs and then be directed upstairs to the “Enforcement” office. You will check in again at the Enforcement office. Generally, these conferences begin at 9am and other people who received these notices will be there as well.
CSLB Mandatory Settlement Conferences Are Not Heard by a Judge
The notice that you received is a bit misleading. The notice itself states that you will have a hearing in from of an administrative law judge. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Instead, you and the other folks who were called in that day will meet together in front of an administrative law judge just to go over procedure. The judge will go over general rules, what to expect during the citation enforcement process, and discuss the law that applies to most of the enforcement actions. However, this meeting is not personalized to your citation. Instead, this is simply a presentation on what to expect during this process.
After that presentation, you will sit in the waiting area and will be called in the order you checked in that morning. This process goes very quickly. You will then meet with a CSLB representative, not a judge.
Mandatory Settlement Conferences Can Only Reduce Your Fine, You Cannot Argue the Merit of the Citation
Although the CSLB representative may listen to your perspective on the citation, they are unable to dismiss the citation. The only thing they can do is discuss reducing your fine.
This is an important distinction. If you contest the citation itself and believe you did not break the law, you should not agree to any payment at your Mandatory Settlement Conference. Instead, you will need to go to Hearing, which is an administrative law trial.
On the other hand, Hearings can very expensive and incorporate rules of court and law that you will need to be familiar with. This can be especially difficult for someone who isn’t a lawyer.
Take the time to consider what it will mean to settle your citation, versus going to Hearing. The difference could affect your ability to operate as a contractor. Alternatively, it may make better sense to simply settle the dispute before it gets more expensive. At the end of the day, the decision is yours and should be made with careful thinking based on your circumstances.
It is always useful to contact a construction lawyer who deals with licensing violations if you are unsure about your options.
Feel free to reach out. You’ll hear back from me personally within 24 hours, if not less.
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