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.0115 Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: Pleadings and Prehearing Procedure

(a) Complaint and Service - The counsel will file the complaint with the clerk of the commission. The counsel will cause a summons and a copy of the complaint to be served upon the defendant and will inform the clerk of the date of service. The clerk will deliver a copy of the complaint to the chairperson of the commission and will inform the chairperson of the date that service on the defendant was effected. Service of complaints and summonses and other documents or papers will be accomplished as set forth in the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

(b) Notice Pleading - Complaints in disciplinary actions will allege the charges with sufficient precision to clearly apprise the defendant of the conduct which is the subject of the complaint.

(c) Answer - Within 20 days after the service of the complaint, unless further time is allowed by the chairperson of the commission or of the hearing panel upon good cause shown, the defendant will file an answer to the complaint with the clerk of the commission and will serve a copy on the counsel.

(d) Designation of Hearing Panel - Within 20 days after service of the complaint upon the defendant, the chairperson of the commission will designate a hearing panel from among the commission members. The chairperson will notify the counsel and the defendant of the composition of the hearing panel.

(e) Scheduling Conference - The chairperson of the hearing panel will hold a scheduling conference with the parties within 20 days after the filing of the answer by the defendant unless another time is set by the chairperson of the commission. The chairperson of the hearing panel will notify the counsel and the defendant of the date, time, and venue (e.g., in person, telephone, video conference) of the scheduling conference. At the scheduling conference, the parties will discuss anticipated issues, amendments, motions, any settlement conference, and discovery. The chairperson of the hearing panel will set dates for the completion of discovery and depositions, for the filing of motions, for the pre-hearing conference, for the filing of the stipulation on the pre-hearing conference, and for the hearing, and may order a settlement conference. The hearing date shall not be less than 60 days from the final date for discovery and depositions unless otherwise consented to by the parties. The chairperson of the hearing panel may impose sanctions against any party who willfully fails to participate in good faith in the scheduling conference or willfully fails to comply with a scheduling order issued pursuant to this section. The sanctions which may be imposed include but are not limited to those enumerated in Rule 37(b) of the NC Rules of Civil Procedure.

(f) Failure to File an Answer - Failure to file an answer admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint or asserting the grounds for failing to do so within the time specified by this rule will be grounds for entry of the defendant’s default. If the defendant fails to file an answer to the complaint, the allegations contained in the complaint will be deemed admitted.

(g) Default

(1) The clerk will enter the defendant’s default when the fact of default is made to appear by motion of the counsel or otherwise.

(2) The counsel may thereupon apply to the hearing panel for default orders as follows:

(A) For an order making findings of fact and conclusions of law. Upon such motion, the hearing panel shall enter an order making findings of fact and conclusions of law as established by the facts deemed admitted by the default. The hearing panel shall then set a date for hearing at which the sole issue shall be the discipline to be imposed.

(B) For an order of discipline. Upon such motion, the hearing panel shall enter an order making findings of fact and conclusions of law as established by the facts deemed admitted by the default. If such facts provide sufficient basis, the hearing panel shall enter an order imposing the discipline deemed to be appropriate. The hearing panel may, in its discretion, set a hearing date and hear such additional evidence as it deems necessary to determine appropriate discipline prior to entering the order of discipline.

(3) For good cause shown, the hearing panel may set aside the entry of default.

(4) After an order imposing discipline has been entered by the hearing panel upon the defendant’s default, the hearing panel may set aside the order in accordance with Rule 60(b) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.

(h) Discovery - Discovery will be available to the parties in accordance with the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Any discovery undertaken must be completed by the date set in the scheduling order unless the time for discovery is extended by the chairperson of the hearing panel for good cause shown. Upon a showing of good cause, the chairperson of the hearing panel may reschedule the hearing to accommodate completion of reasonable discovery.

(i) Settlement - The parties may meet by mutual consent prior to the hearing to discuss the possibility of settlement of the case or the stipulation of any issues, facts, or matters of law. Any proposed settlement of the case will be subject to the approval of the hearing panel. The hearing panel may reject a proposed settlement agreement but only after conducting a conference with the parties. The chairperson of the hearing panel will notify the counsel and the defendant of the date, time, and venue (e.g., in person, telephone, videoconference) of the conference. If, after the conference, the first hearing panel rejects a proposed settlement, another hearing panel must be empanelled to try the case, unless all parties consent to proceed with the original hearing panel. The parties may submit a proposed settlement to a second hearing panel and may, upon the agreement of both parties, request a conference with the panel, but the parties shall not have the right to request a third hearing panel if the proposed settlement is rejected by the second hearing panel. The second hearing panel shall either accept the settlement proposal or hold a hearing upon the allegations of the complaint. 

(j) Settlement Conference - Either party may request, or the chair of the hearing panel may order, appointment of a commission member to conduct a settlement conference.

(1) Such request shall be filed with the clerk of the commission and must be made no later than 60 days prior to the date set for hearing.

(2) Upon such request, the chairperson of the commission shall select and assign a commission member not assigned to the hearing panel in the case to conduct a settlement conference and shall notify the parties of the commission member assigned and the date by which the settlement conference must be held. The settlement conference must be no later than 30 days prior to the date set for hearing.

(3) The commission member conducting the settlement conference will set the date, time, and manner.

(4) At the settlement conference, the parties will discuss their positions and desired resolution and the commission member will provide input regarding the case and resolution.

(5) The commission member’s evaluation and input shall be advisory only and not binding.

(6) All statements and/or admissions made at the settlement conference shall be for settlement purposes only and shall not be admissible at any hearing in the case. Evidence that is otherwise discoverable, however, shall not be excluded from admission at hearing merely because it is presented in the course of the settlement conference.

(k) Prehearing Conference and Order

(1) Unless default has been entered by the clerk, the parties shall hold a prehearing conference. The prehearing conference shall be arranged and held by the dates established in the scheduling order.

(2) Prior to or during the prehearing conference, the parties shall: exchange witness and exhibit lists; discuss stipulations of undisputed facts; discuss the issues for determination by the hearing panel; and exchange contested issues if the parties identify differing contested issues.

(3) Within five days after the date of the prehearing conference, each party shall provide the other with any documents or items identified as exhibits but not previously provided to the other party.

(4) The parties shall memorialize the prehearing conference in a document titled “Stipulation on Prehearing Conference” that shall address the items and utilize the format in the sample provided to the parties by the clerk. By the date set in the scheduling order, the parties shall submit the Stipulation on Prehearing Conference to the clerk to provide to the hearing panel.

(5) Upon five days’ notice to the parties, at the discretion of the chairperson of the hearing panel, the chairperson may order the parties to meet with the chairperson or any designated member of the hearing panel for the purpose of promoting the efficiency of the hearing. The participating member of the panel shall have the power to issue such orders as may be appropriate. The venue (e.g., telephone, videoconference, in person) shall be set by the hearing panel member.

(6) The chairperson of the hearing panel may impose sanctions against any party who willfully fails to participate in good faith in a prehearing conference or hearing or who willfully fails to comply with a prehearing order issued pursuant to this section. The sanctions which may be imposed include but are not limited to those enumerated in Rule 37(b) of the NC Rules of Procedure.

(7) Evidence or witnesses not included in the Stipulation on Prehearing Conference may be excluded from admission or consideration at the hearing.

(l) Prehearing Motions - The chairperson of the hearing panel, without consulting the other panel members, may hear and dispose of all prehearing motions except motions the granting of which would result in dismissal of the charges or final judgment for either party. All motions which could result in dismissal of the charges or final judgment for either party will be decided by a majority of the members of the hearing panel. The following procedures shall apply to all prehearing motions, including motions which could result in dismissal of all or any of the allegations or could result in final judgment for either party on all or any claims:

(1) Parties shall file motions with the clerk of the commission. Parties may submit motions by regular mail, overnight mail, or in person. Motions transmitted by facsimile or by email will not be accepted for filing except with the advance written permission of the chairperson of the hearing panel. Parties shall not deliver motions or other communications directly to members of the hearing panel unless expressly directed in writing to do so by the chairperson of the hearing panel.

(2) Motions shall be served as provided in the NC Rules of Civil Procedure.

(3) The non-moving party shall have ten days from the filing of the motion to respond. If the motion is served upon the non-moving party by regular mail only, then the non-moving party shall have 13 days from the filing of the motion to respond. Upon good cause shown, the chairperson of the hearing panel may shorten or extend the time period for response.

(4) Any prehearing motion may be decided on the basis of the parties’ written submissions. Oral argument may be allowed in the discretion of the chairperson of the hearing panel. The chairperson shall set the time, date, and manner of oral argument. The chairperson may order that argument on any prehearing motion may be heard in person or by telephone or electronic means of communication.

(5) Any motion included in or with a defendant’s answer will not be acted upon, and no response from the non-moving party will be due, unless and until a party files a notice requesting action by the deadline for filing motions set in the scheduling order. The due date for response by the non-moving party will run from the date of the filing of the notice.

History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-23

Adopted: September 22, 2016

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court: September 28, 2017

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