Many areas of the law come with deadlines. Tight deadlines. The practice of administrative law and professional licensing defense is no different.
One thing that our firm has noticed is that the state licensing agencies like to play a little fast and loose with their interpretation of deadlines. Meaning, they will notify a licensee or applicant that an action they are attempting to take has failed as it was untimely, and then based that determination on an erroneous calculation of that deadline. To the untrained eye, this will just be accepted and the licensee receiving the notice will be resigned to defeat.
However, depending on the deadline, please keep in mind the following ways in which that deadline may be extended:
Read the Controlling Authority
This could be a statute, regulation, or in a contract. It will sometimes contradict what you are being informed in the communication is your deadline. Nobody’s perfect, but if your opponent can miscalculate a deadline to their advantage and think that you are too trusting, busy, or unsophisticated to find out the truth, then they will try. And they will continue to try until someone tells them to stop.
Weekends and Holidays
Weekends and holidays count for purposes of number of calendar days. However, when the deadline falls on a weekend day, day in which the underlying state office is closed, or court holiday, then the due date for the action extends to the next business day. Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure, sections 12, 12a, and 12b, if a deadline falls on a holiday (i.e. a weekend day, or a day in which a state office is closed), the deadline is extended until the next business day. This is also the case in the California Rules of Court. Rule 1.10(b) provides that if a deadline falls on a weekend day, the deadline is extended to the next business day.
Form of Service
Depending on how the notification or event that otherwise triggered a ticking clock was delivered, your deadline to take action can be extended a number of days. By California statute (see Cal. Code Civ. Proc., § 1013(a)):
… Service is complete at the time of the deposit, but any period of notice and any right or duty to do any act or make any response within any period or on a date certain after service of the document, which time period or date is prescribed by statute or rule of court, shall be extended five calendar days, upon service by mail, if the place of address and the place of mailing is within the State of California…
Other forms of service will provide other amounts of time for service. But keep in mind that if a letter provides you with fifteen days to take action, and that letter has been mailed to you to provide you with notice, you in fact have fifteen + five days to take action.
Many people look from the date of the letter to begin calculating their deadline. However, sometimes the dates on the letter do not correspond to the actual day in which the document was placed into the stream of delivery. Whether being done consciously or just the result of several layers of bureaucracy, we have seen letters that are mailed a full 7-10 days after the letter was dated.
How do we know that – we look to the postmark. That will tell us when it was first received by the U.S. Postal Service. That will let us know when the document was placed into the stream of delivery. And if we have that, we base our calculations on that postmark date.
Business / Court Days
Sometimes, the deadline is not calculated by calendar days. Rather, the deadline may be calculated by business days or court days. This eliminates weekends and holidays from the calculation.
Using each of these tips can save you when you are ever in a jam with time. Furthermore, it is always a good thing to “show your math” when you have used one of these safeguards to your advantage. It helps avoid a back-and-forth over whether you did or did not meet your deadline. And it also shows to the other side that you are versed in the law governing the underlying requirements – not to be trifled with.