The mission of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation is to promote the health, safety and economic well-being of the public through regulation, licensing, enforcement, training and education. As part of that mission, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) seeks to enforce the statutes, regulations and codes pertaining to each licensing entity encompassed by LLR. ODC staff provides legal advice to the Office of Investigations and Enforcement during the investigatory stages of each case as needed; meets with Investigative Review Committees as required; drafts charging documents, pleadings and agreements in each case where the board authorizes a formal complaint ; represents the State during disciplinary proceedings; and provides legal representation for the State at the Administrative Law Court, Court of Appeals and Circuit Courts throughout the State. ODC staff interacts with members of the public in a limited role, primarily related to upcoming hearings. Cases and responsibilities are assigned to attorneys by Board, Commission or Council. There are more than forty Boards, Commissions and Councils at LLR, so this overview below will not apply to each individual case, but is intended to give a broad outline of what to expect once a case reaches the ODC, not to be a prediction of what will happen in an individual case to an individual Respondent. While a typical case is pending in ODC, the following steps are usually taken:
- If a Consent Agreement (CA) is authorized, ODC will draft it and offer it to the Respondent for signature. This document sets out the agreed facts and sanctions that the Board, Commission or Council has authorized in cases similar to this one. If a CA is signed and accepted, the Respondent is required to comply with the terms of the CA, but is not required to physically come to a hearing to dispose of his or her case.
- If no CA is possible (either because of disagreement or it is not authorized), ODC may draft a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). A MOA sets out the agreed facts and violations, but allows the Board, Commission or Council to impose sanctions as it sees fit. An MOA requires the Respondent to attend the next available meeting of the Board, Commission or Council to accept appropriate sanctions at a Final Order Hearing.
- If neither the CA nor the MOA is possible, ODC will draft and serve a Formal Complaint or Formal Accusation (terms differ by Board), then prepare, schedule, and present a disciplinary hearing. Respondents are given at least 30 days' notice of the hearing in most cases, but can waive that right if the witnesses are available for the hearing sooner.
- A disciplinary hearing is similar to a trial, with witnesses called and put under oath for their testimony. Cases are brought by the State of South Carolina against the individual or corporate Respondent. ODC makes a determination of which witnesses are necessary to prove the case on behalf of the State. Respondents are entitled to call witnesses who may provide mitigating or exculpatory information and who will also be sworn to testify. The full board, a panel of practitioners or a single hearing officer may be responsible for making the rulings as to what the Respondent did or did not do in the case. If the hearing is not held before the full board, a second, shorter proceeding known as a Final Order Hearing will be held before the full Board, Commission or Council, at which time sanctions will be imposed or ratified if a recommendation was made by a hearing officer or panel.