For nearly a year the California State Personnel Board (SPB) has been conducting an intensive overhaul of the format of the disciplinary appeals process. Those efforts finally came to fruition and were implemented in September of 2010. The changes include an extensive list of new deadlines associated with the Pre-hearing Settlement Conferences, Discovery and Motions for such common matters as consolidation or dismissal. The SPB Administrative Law Judges have also been given broad authority to issue harsh evidentiary sanctions when these deadlines are not followed.
In an exhaustive training seminar put on by SPB Legal Counsel Paul Ramsey, he disclosed that the new changes are designed to bring the SPB more in line with the Superior Court. This is largely due to the fact that SPB is inundated with more cases than it can handle, resulting in extraordinary delays before a matter can come to an administrative trial. SPB receives on average 2,600 appeals a year. 1 in 10 of those cases actually proceed through a full evidentiary administrative trial resulting in a verdict. 5 in 10 are settled through the SPB Pre-Hearing Settlement Conference (PHSC)  process and 4 in 10 are settling after the PHSC, often within a few days of the beginning of the trial . The new regulations are designed, in part, to give the SPB greater control over the PHSC process and to hopefully cause more of those 4 in 10 cases to settle sooner. This will result in less waste on the SPB Calendar and prevent more cases from unnecissarily going to trial.
The new regulations are also designed to force the parties to be completely prepared when they come to the PHSC. It is much more likely that informed parties, stricter evidentiary sanctions and tighter controls will cause the efficiency of the SPB to rise dramatically. Given our current economic situation, more funding (and resources) to the SPB is not likely, therefore being more efficient with what they do have means faster and better due process for you.
The flip side is of course that appellants (and their counsel) must be vigilant to be sure to meet and adhere to all deadlines imposed, or risk losing all or part of their case. Anyone who is facing an evidentiary administrative trial before the SPB should consult with an attorney who specializes in these appeals.