Administrative Final Orders Must State Findings of Fact Based on the Evidence Presented
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law
Following is a summary of a recent appellate case on an issue relevant to health law:
Borges v. Dep’t of Health, 143 So. 3d 1185 (Fla. 3d DCA 2014).
Gustavo Borges (Borges) appealed a final order of the Florida Board of Dentistry that revoked his license to practice dentistry based on a conviction of the knowing receipt of child pornography under a federal statute.
At hearing, eight lay witnesses and four expert witnesses testified. In the recommended order’s discussion of the evidence presented, which was the basis for the Board’s final order, the administrative law judge (ALJ) discussed the testimony of only one witness-Borges-after concluding that a statement by Borges constituted a concession that established that his conviction was related to his ability to practice dentistry. No other testimony was discussed in the order, or even acknowledged.
On appeal, the appellate court concluded that the ALJ’s recommended order adopted by the Board did not comply with one of the requirements of section 120.57, Florida Statutes-that an ALJ’s order must contain “express findings of fact.” The court was quick to point out that, while the findings of fact did not have to address the testimony of every witness (i.e., all twelve here), the order must at least address the factual controversies at issue to the extent they are relevant to the disposition, or address why the testimony is irrelevant. Having failed to do so in this case, the appellate court reversed and remanded.
The case summary above was originally published in the Administrative Law Section Newsletter, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Dec. 2014), a publication of The Administrative Law Section of The Florida Bar.
Editor’s Comments on Case Summary.
This case demonstrates an important concept in administrative law. This is, an administrative law judge is required to discuss the evidence presented at the hearing and make specific findings of fact based on that evidence. Failing to do this in the recommended order (RO) can lead to reversal by an appellate court.
Do you think the appellate court should have reversed? Do you think it was important to discuss all testimonies in this case? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
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About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.
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