Citizen’s Guide for Hearing before Executive Ethics Commission
How to prepare for a hearing before the Independent Executive Branch Ethics Commission
Do I need a lawyer?
You do not need to hire an attorney to present your case at a hearing before the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. You may consult or hire counsel if you desire.
Should I bring witnesses?
Yes, you should have any witnesses that submitted affidavits with your complaint available to testify before the Commission. Give your witnesses as much advance notice as possible of the hearing date. The Commission has the power to subpoena witnesses who are unwilling to come to the hearing voluntarily. A subpoena allows the Commission to require a witness’s attendance.
Because the purpose of the Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate oneself is to prevent prosecution for criminal action, a witness will not be allowed to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege if the witness cannot be prosecuted for a crime to which the witness’s testimony relates.
How do I know what witnesses the other side will bring?
After the Commission has determined that your complaint meets the criteria for review, they will ask the respondent to provide a written response to the complaint. This response will be forwarded to you after the Commission receives it. This response will outline any witnesses or evidence that the respondent plans to present at the hearing.
Unlike a court case, you or your counsel will not have the opportunity to directly question or cross examine the respondent’s witnesses. Each side is simply there to provide information to the Commission and respond to the Commission’s questions.
What should I bring to the hearing?
Exhibits or Evidence – if you have any physical evidence or exhibits to support your complaint, bring the originals and six copies of each document/paper/picture you want the Commission to consider. One copy will be provided to the respondent and one copy will be provided to each of the five Commissioners.
How is the hearing structured?
The hearing will follow this process:
- introduction and instructions for procedure and process, at the discretion of the chair
- procedural motions, adoption of evidentiary standards, or other general matters
- complainants’ opening argument, to be presented by a complainant or complainants’ counsel
- complainants’ presentation of evidence and witnesses in support of allegations in the complaint
- consideration of motions to dismiss the complaint or motions for a directed verdict, as applicable
- respondent’s opening argument, to be presented by the respondent or respondent’s counsel
- respondent’s presentation of evidence and witnesses refuting the allegations in the complaint
- presentation of rebuttal evidence and witnesses by the complainants, at the discretion of the chair
- presentation of rebuttal evidence and witnesses by the respondent, at the discretion of the chair
- complainants’ closing argument, to be presented by a complainant or complainants’ counsel
- respondent’s closing argument, to be presented by the respondent or respondent’s counsel
- deliberations by the commission
- adoption of the Commission’s findings.
How should I handle myself during the hearing?
Attending a hearing and presenting evidence can be stressful. Do your best to stay calm. The Commission can only hear answers and review evidence that is directly related to the elements of the complaint. Please contain your statements to the issues that are relevant to the complaint.
Be to the hearing location at least fifteen minutes before the hearing is to start. Ensure that your witnesses are ready to testify when the hearing starts. Make sure your witnesses stay close by during the hearing so they will be ready when the Commission calls them to testify.
Do not interrupt or speak to the other party, even if they interrupt or speak to you. You will have a chance to address the Commission or clarify any information that you feel is incorrect.
The Commission will ask you questions. If you do not understand the question, say so. Do not answer until you fully understand the question. Take your time when answering questions. Give the question as much thought as you need to understand it and come up with your answer. Explain your answer if needed.
After the hearing, the Commission will ask everyone to leave while they deliberate. They will not announce their findings publicly after their deliberation. If the Commission determines no allegations were proved, the Commission will issue an order that the complaint be dismissed and will classify all recordings, testimony, evidence and other records presented at the hearing.
If the Commission finds that allegations in the complaint were proven, they will publicly release their recommendation, the complaint, and the response. They will also provide notice of those findings in writing to the complainants and the respondent as well as the Ethics Committee of the respective house of which the respondent is a member.
Within 30 days of receiving a recommendation from the Commission, the Ethics Committee of that body will then hold a public hearing to review the complaint.