Section 120.569, Florida Statutes 2004
120.569 Decisions which affect substantial interests.--
(1) The provisions of this section apply in all proceedings in which the substantial interests of a party are determined by an agency, unless the parties are proceeding under s. 120.573 or s. 120.574. Unless waived by all parties, s. 120.57(1) applies whenever the proceeding involves a disputed issue of material fact. Unless otherwise agreed, s. 120.57(2) applies in all other cases. Parties shall be notified of any order, including a final order. Unless waived, a copy of the order shall be delivered or mailed to each party or the party's attorney of record at the address of record. Each notice shall inform the recipient of any administrative hearing or judicial review that is available under this section, s. 120.57, or s. 120.68; shall indicate the procedure which must be followed to obtain the hearing or judicial review; and shall state the time limits which apply.
(2)(a) Except for any proceeding conducted as prescribed in s. 120.56, a petition or request for a hearing under this section shall be filed with the agency. If the agency requests an administrative law judge from the division, it shall so notify the division within 15 days after receipt of the petition or request. A request for a hearing shall be granted or denied within 15 days after receipt. On the request of any agency, the division shall assign an administrative law judge with due regard to the expertise required for the particular matter. The referring agency shall take no further action with respect to a proceeding under s. 120.57(1), except as a party litigant, as long as the division has jurisdiction over the proceeding under s. 120.57(1). Any party may request the disqualification of the administrative law judge by filing an affidavit with the division prior to the taking of evidence at a hearing, stating the grounds with particularity.
(b) All parties shall be afforded an opportunity for a hearing after reasonable notice of not less than 14 days; however, the 14-day notice requirement may be waived with the consent of all parties. The notice shall include:
1. A statement of the time, place, and nature of the hearing.
2. A statement of the legal authority and jurisdiction under which the hearing is to be held.
(c) Unless otherwise provided by law, a petition or request for hearing shall include those items required by the uniform rules adopted pursuant to s. 120.54(5)(b)4. Upon the receipt of a petition or request for hearing, the agency shall carefully review the petition to determine if it contains all of the required information. A petition shall be dismissed if it is not in substantial compliance with these requirements or it has been untimely filed. Dismissal of a petition shall, at least once, be without prejudice to petitioner's filing a timely amended petition curing the defect, unless it conclusively appears from the face of the petition that the defect cannot be cured. The agency shall promptly give written notice to all parties of the action taken on the petition, shall state with particularity its reasons if the petition is not granted, and shall state the deadline for filing an amended petition if applicable.
(d) The agency may refer a petition to the division for the assignment of an administrative law judge only if the petition is in substantial compliance with the requirements of paragraph (c).
(e) All pleadings, motions, or other papers filed in the proceeding must be signed by the party, the party's attorney, or the party's qualified representative. The signature constitutes a certificate that the person has read the pleading, motion, or other paper and that, based upon reasonable inquiry, it is not interposed for any improper purposes, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay, or for frivolous purpose or needless increase in the cost of litigation. If a pleading, motion, or other paper is signed in violation of these requirements, the presiding officer shall impose upon the person who signed it, the represented party, or both, an appropriate sanction, which may include an order to pay the other party or parties the amount of reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion, or other paper, including a reasonable attorney's fee.
(f) The presiding officer has the power to swear witnesses and take their testimony under oath, to issue subpoenas, and to effect discovery on the written request of any party by any means available to the courts and in the manner provided in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, including the imposition of sanctions, except contempt. However, no presiding officer has the authority to issue any subpoena or order directing discovery to any member or employee of the Legislature when the subpoena or order commands the production of documents or materials or compels testimony relating to the legislative duties of the member or employee. Any subpoena or order directing discovery directed to a member or an employee of the Legislature shall show on its face that the testimony sought does not relate to legislative duties.
(g) Irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded, but all other evidence of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their affairs shall be admissible, whether or not such evidence would be admissible in a trial in the courts of Florida. Any part of the evidence may be received in written form, and all testimony of parties and witnesses shall be made under oath.
(h) Documentary evidence may be received in the form of a copy or excerpt. Upon request, parties shall be given an opportunity to compare the copy with the original, if available.
(i) When official recognition is requested, the parties shall be notified and given an opportunity to examine and contest the material.
(j) A party shall be permitted to conduct cross-examination when testimony is taken or documents are made a part of the record.
(k)1. Any person subject to a subpoena may, before compliance and on timely petition, request the presiding officer having jurisdiction of the dispute to invalidate the subpoena on the ground that it was not lawfully issued, is unreasonably broad in scope, or requires the production of irrelevant material.
2. A party may seek enforcement of a subpoena, order directing discovery, or order imposing sanctions issued under the authority of this chapter by filing a petition for enforcement in the circuit court of the judicial circuit in which the person failing to comply with the subpoena or order resides. A failure to comply with an order of the court shall result in a finding of contempt of court. However, no person shall be in contempt while a subpoena is being challenged under subparagraph 1. The court may award to the prevailing party all or part of the costs and attorney's fees incurred in obtaining the court order whenever the court determines that such an award should be granted under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
3. Any public employee subpoenaed to appear at an agency proceeding shall be entitled to per diem and travel expenses at the same rate as that provided for state employees under s. 112.061 if travel away from such public employee's headquarters is required. All other witnesses appearing pursuant to a subpoena shall be paid such fees and mileage for their attendance as is provided in civil actions in circuit courts of this state. In the case of a public employee, such expenses shall be processed and paid in the manner provided for agency employee travel expense reimbursement, and in the case of a witness who is not a public employee, payment of such fees and expenses shall accompany the subpoena.
(l) Unless the time period is waived or extended with the consent of all parties, the final order in a proceeding which affects substantial interests must be in writing and include findings of fact, if any, and conclusions of law separately stated, and it must be rendered within 90 days:
1. After the hearing is concluded, if conducted by the agency;
2. After a recommended order is submitted to the agency and mailed to all parties, if the hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge; or
3. After the agency has received the written and oral material it has authorized to be submitted, if there has been no hearing.
(m) Findings of fact, if set forth in a manner which is no more than mere tracking of the statutory language, must be accompanied by a concise and explicit statement of the underlying facts of record which support the findings.
(n) If an agency head finds that an immediate danger to the public health, safety, or welfare requires an immediate final order, it shall recite with particularity the facts underlying such finding in the final order, which shall be appealable or enjoinable from the date rendered.
(o) On the request of any party, the administrative law judge shall enter an initial scheduling order to facilitate the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of the proceeding. The initial scheduling order shall establish a discovery period, including a deadline by which all discovery shall be completed, and the date by which the parties shall identify expert witnesses and their opinions. The initial scheduling order also may require the parties to meet and file a joint report by a date certain.
History.--s. 18, ch. 96-159; s. 7, ch. 97-176; s. 4, ch. 98-200; s. 4, ch. 2003-94.