Professional/Occupational Licensing—Appeals Process

This section will give you an overview of the appeals process if the licensing board denies your application for a professional or occupational license.

Note: Each licensing agency is different! This is just a general overview to prepare you for what the process is like, but it will be slightly different in every situation.


If a licensing board decides to deny your license, it must notify you in one of the following ways:[2116]

    Statement of Issues: The board files and serves you with a formal written statement of the board’s decision to deny you a license. It must specify any rules or statutes that you are not in compliance with, and the facts that authorize the denial. The statement of issues initiates a formal hearing on the matter;[2117] or
    Informal notice of denial: The board serves you with a written notice of denial, but does not file the notice with the court. The notice must state: the reason for the denial and your right to request a hearing on the denial.[2118]

Notice of Defense or Request for a Hearing

    Notice of Defense: If the board files and serves you with a formal statement of issues, you have 15 days to file what is called a “Notice of Defense” with the board, which means you want a formal hearing on the matter. If you do not file a Notice of Defense (or file it late, past the 15 days allowed), you will give up your right to a hearing (called a “default”). The licensing board can take whatever action it pleases, which is usually the harshest, i.e. denial of your license, and you can’t challenge it. (Note: a licensing board has discretion to allow/honor late notices and to grant a hearing after a default, but chances are slim.) Typically a generic notice of default “postcard” is included with the statement. This is the easiest way to preserve your right. The notice of defense need only contain your address and signature to be sufficient.[2119]
    Written Request for a Hearing: If the board does not file a formal statement of issues, but instead sends you an informal notice of denial, you have 60 days to file a written request for a hearing with the board.

Stipulated Settlement.

In many cases, you can resolve your case before by agreeing to a voluntary settlement (called a “stipulated settlement”) with the licensing board. A stipulated settlement is sort of like a plea bargain—you admit to doing something wrong, and you agree to accept a certain amount of punishment from the board. Often this means that you will get your license on a conditional basis for a certain amount of time (a “probation” period).

You will have to meet certain requirements—such as participating in counseling or other behavioral programs, taking specific classes or exams, having your work monitored by a supervisor, getting drug tested, completing community service, and/or temporary suspension—during the probation period.[2120] If you complete all the requirements, you can get your full license back. If you do NOT complete the requirements, the board can revoke your license.[2121]

A stipulated settlement can be complicated, so it is recommended to have a lawyer represent you. You may be able to negotiate certain parts of the settlement agreement—such as what wrongdoing you will admit to; what conditions you will have to complete during the probation period; and how much you will have to pay in recovery costs to get your license. If you reach this point, you should think about what issues are most important to you—for example, whether you want the shortest possible probation, or to pay the smallest amount, or to avoid admitting certain wrongdoing.[2122]

The Formal Hearing.

If you don’t reach a stipulated settlement with the licensing board, you will have a formal administrative hearing. An administrative hearing is somewhat like a trial. There will be a judge and a court reporter. The board will be represented either by in-house counsel (its own attorney) or the California Attorney General (like a prosecutor for the entire state). You are allowed to have an attorney also, but you are not entitled to one, so you will have to pay for your attorney yourself. Both sides will present evidence, put on witnesses (if necessary), and make arguments. [2123]

The Decision.

After the case is presented, the administrative law judge (ALJ) will issue an advisory decision within about 30 days.[2124]

  1. 2116

    Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 485(a).

  2. 2117

    Cal. Gov’t Code § 11504.

  3. 2118

    Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 485(b).

  4. 2119

    Cal. Gov’t Code § 11506(d).

  5. 2120

    See, e.g., In the Matter of the Accusation Against: Bertha Sandoval Arroyo, Case No. DBC 2008-85, available at; In the Matter of: Robert Sal Buchberger, Case No. 2000-151, available at; In the Matter of the Accusation Against: Elizabeth Oberholtzer, Case No. 1D 2009 67851, available at; In the Matter of the Accusation Against: Kenneth E. Roberson, Ph.D., Case No. 1F-2007-182250, available at

  6. 2121

    You will have the right to notice and a hearing before the board revokes your license.

  7. 2122

    See Suzanne Taylor, Cal. Dept. of Consumer Affairs—Board of Psychology, What Are Stipulated Settlements, Frederick M. Ray, The Stipulated Settlement, California License Law Blog,

  8. 2123

    Cal. Gov’t Code § 11500 et seq.

  9. 2124

    See Frederick M. Ray, FAQs about California Licensing Matters,