Law 778 - Dog Administrative Hearings Clinic

Taimie L. Bryant

Taimie L. Bryant

Professor of Law
B.A. Bryn Mawr College, 1975
M.A. Anthropology, UCLA, 1978
Ph.D. UCLA, 1984
J.D. Harvard, 1987
UCLA Faculty Since 1988
Course Description:

Clinic webpage: https://law.ucla.edu/academics/clinical-education/clinics/dog-administrative-hearings-clinic

Administrative adjudication is an important area of legal practice through which some disputes between an individual and an agency may be handled by administrative law judges about subjects as diverse as immigration, asylum, termination of employment, social security benefits, and incarceration. This four-unit clinic, focused on complaint proceedings involving dogs in the City of Los Angeles, enables participants to conduct real administrative law 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 case disposition recommendations from the perspective of a factfinder and decision-maker. Some clinic participants have said that clinic participation helped them to think about whether they would want to become a judge or work for 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” complaint proceedings conducted online for 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 allegedly dangerous dog behavior—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 written evidence and oral testimony to produce a fair and persuasive legal recommendation for case disposition.

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. 

Please note: This clinic and the hearings clinic participants conduct will take place online. This enables more parties and witnesses to participate in the hearings regardless of their location, and clinic participants need not drive downtown to conduct hearings as in the past. There will be an experienced hearing examiner available to assist. Clinic participants are not expected to manage the Zoom interface; there is administrative staffing online in each hearing to take care of technical issues.

Schedule: 
The clinic will meet every Wednesday from 10:00 am until noon. During the training period of approximately 4 weeks, class will also meet every Friday for 4 hours, in roughly two-hour blocks between 9 a.m. to 3:30 pm online. 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. Simulation hearings take place during the week of February 15th and may take longer than 2 hours to complete, including discussion of the simulation. The first hearings will be on February 26. Hearings will take place every other week through April 30th, and the last report will be due on the last day of the exam period.

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, clinic participants will not be able to take any other course that meets on regularly on Fridays. 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 (online):
Participants will also meet for class at UCLA Law every Wednesday for discussion of cases and participant skills necessary to conduct hearings and to write legally sufficient reports.

Grading:
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 and discussions.

Course Requirements:
There are no course prerequisites for this class, but there is an LAAS-required application procedure. 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, this class has an early drop deadline of the Friday before the first day of class. Students are welcome to contact Professor Bryant for information helpful to their decision to take the clinic, including any challenges they may have which, if resolved, could make participation feasible. 


Course Learning Outcomes:

Clinic participants learn experientially about substantive and procedural law pertaining to administrative agencies, administrative hearings, and constitutional due process requirements in the context of administrative law adjudication. Participants also receive considerable practice assessing the reliability of testimony submitted under penalty of perjury, analyzing facts in relation to statutory factors in order to make a fair decision in each case, and writing objective, persuasive reports that include recommended outcomes. Participants’ hearing reports and recommended dispositions of complaints become part of a record that can be used in appellate legal proceedings in the agency and in Los Angeles Superior Court. Participants can learn about administrative appellate procedure by following appeals involving their cases.