Hughes v. Board of Architectural Examiners

Decision Date26 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. S056373,S056373
Citation952 P.2d 641,17 Cal.4th 763,72 Cal.Rptr.2d 624
Parties, 952 P.2d 641, 98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 2190, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 3025 Charles Scott HUGHES, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BOARD OF ARCHITECTURAL EXAMINERS, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

Smiland & Khachigian, William M. Smiland and Kenneth L. Khachigian, Los Angeles, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, Joel S. Primes and Steven M. Kahn, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Appellant.

GEORGE, Chief Justice.

Pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 5583 and 5584, an architect may be disciplined for wrongful conduct occurring after his or her license has been issued. 1 In this case we decide whether, pursuant to those sections, an architect may be disciplined for wrongful conduct that occurred prior to the time the architect's license was issued, when the license itself was not obtained by fraud or misrepresentation. We conclude that the cited statutes also may be applied to wrongful conduct that precedes issuance of the license.


Charles Scott Hughes studied architecture at the University of Virginia and the Boston Architectural Center between 1970 and 1975 but did not receive a degree. Hughes successfully completed the architectural examination given by the Board of Architectural Examiners of Washington, D.C., but, having failed to submit his college transcript, he did not obtain an architectural license from that entity.

Following an apprenticeship in several architectural firms, in 1982 Hughes established his own architectural firm. Initially, Hughes employed licensed architects to perform that part of the work that required licensure as an architect. Eventually, however, he personally performed work that required a license.

In addition, Hughes took measures to conceal his lack of a license, and to hold himself out as a licensed architect. In 1981, the American Institute of Architects (hereafter, the AIA), sent Hughes a letter requesting that he cease representing himself to be a member of that organization. In 1986, Hughes applied for membership in the AIA, falsely stating on his application that he was licensed in Washington, D.C., and enclosing the certificate of registration of another architect upon which he had substituted his own name. Also in 1986, Hughes falsely stated on his resume that he was a registered architect in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. During the period in which he operated his own firm, Hughes applied architecture stamps belonging to other licensed architects to work he himself had performed.

In January 1989, while Hughes was engaged in the design of an addition to the residence of Dan Quayle, then Vice-President of the United States, it was discovered that Hughes did not have a valid license. The Board of Architectural Examiners of Washington, D.C., initiated disciplinary proceedings. In addition, following his indictment by a grand jury, the Commonwealth of Virginia charged Hughes with one count of misrepresentation to a government agency in connection with representations he made in the course of performing architectural services for Arlington County. Hughes executed a plea agreement, pleading guilty to making a fraudulent misrepresentation to the county. In November 1989, the court ordered Hughes to perform 200 hours of community service, undergo counseling, and pay costs. Pursuant to Virginia law, the court suspended imposition of sentence until October 25, 1991, in order to permit Hughes an opportunity to meet the conditions of the court's order.

Hughes promptly completed the conditions imposed and on February 1, 1990, contacted his probation officer, requesting advancement of the court appearance set to resolve the disposition of the case, to enable Hughes to represent that he had not suffered any prior convictions. On February 12, 1990, the probation officer wrote to the court requesting the advancement. On April 27, 1990, the Arlington County prosecutor entered a nolle prosequi requesting that the charge be dismissed. The charge was not formally dismissed until May 1, 1990.

Meanwhile, on February 22, 1990, Hughes applied to the California Board of Architectural Examiners (hereafter, the Board) for a license to practice in California. Hughes enclosed the application with a transmittal letter explaining that he successfully had completed an architectural examination in Washington, D.C., in 1980 and the results of that examination were to be forwarded to the Board, but that he "did not complete" his licensing at that time and therefore was seeking initial registration in California. On the application form itself, Hughes provided information concerning his prior employment for other architectural firms as well as his self-employment at his own firm. Hughes left blank that part of the form designated "Licensed as:" and also indicated that he never had been licensed in any other state or foreign country. In the area of the form inquiring whether the applicant had been convicted of any offense and advising the applicant to report all convictions, including those dismissed pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 (dismissal of charges following fulfillment of probation terms), Hughes answered in the negative.

On March 8, 1990, Hughes wrote a supplemental letter to the Board, disclosing that he had "never completed the licensing process," and that "technically" his registration "was never perfected" in Washington, D.C., because of his "initial oversight" in failing to produce his college transcript. The letter indicated that during the period in the 1980's when he operated his own firm, the majority of the services that he or his firm performed did not require the services of a licensed architect. The letter also disclosed that in 1989, Hughes's architectural firm became involved in civil litigation that had "called into question" his professional licensing status, that his conduct had been the subject of "a great deal of publicity," that he had "made a full disclosure" of the facts concerning his nonlicensure to the Washington, D.C., authorities (by whom "investigations were instituted"), that he had "closed his office," that the Commonwealth of Virginia had charged him with one count of misrepresentation to a government agency, that he had entered a plea to the charge, that imposition of his sentence had been suspended, that he had been placed on probation, paid restitution, and performed community service, that "on February 22, 1990, ... all charges against [him] were dropped," and that, as a result, no charges were pending against him and he had no record.

The Board apparently did not respond to this communication. Hughes thereafter successfully completed the oral examination. On September 10, 1990, the Board issued Hughes a license.

In May 1991, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (hereafter, NCARB) sent a letter to the Board informing it that Hughes had sought NCARB certification based upon his California registration, the certification form for which indicated that the Board "has no derogatory information on file" concerning Hughes. NCARB indicated its understanding that Hughes previously had been denied registration in Virginia and Washington, D.C., "on the basis of character." NCARB suggested that the Board contact the boards of architectural examiners in those localities to obtain additional information. The Board then commenced an investigation.

On February 5, 1992, the Board filed an accusation against Hughes, asserting that he was subject to discipline and seeking suspension or revocation of his license. Based upon Hughes's statements in his application and subsequent explanatory letter, made prior to actual dismissal of the charge, that he never had been convicted of criminal charges and that the charge previously instituted against him had been dismissed, the accusation alleged that Hughes knowingly had made a false statement of fact in his application to the Board (§ 490) and had obtained his license by fraud or misrepresentation (§ 5579).

On June 29, 1992, the Board issued a supplemental accusation alleging three additional statutory violations. The Board asserted: (1) based upon his guilty plea entered in Arlington County in October 1989, Hughes had been convicted of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions, and duties of an architect (§ 5577); (2) based upon his seeking admittance to the AIA by substituting the certificate of registration of another architect and falsely stating on the application that he was registered as an architect in the District of Columbia since 1977, in falsely stating on his resume that he was a graduate of the University of Virginia and a registered architect in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and in using the stamps or certificates issued to other architects on architectural plans that he personally had prepared in or about 1986, Hughes was guilty of fraud and deceit in the practice of architecture (§ 5583); (3) based upon his violation of Virginia law resulting in his guilty plea in October 1989, his misrepresentation or use of false documents in commercial dealings with Arlington County in January 1989, his submission of false information to the AIA, the false representations on his resume relating to his graduation from college and his professional licensure, and his improper use of the stamps or certificates of other architects in conjunction with his preparation of his own plans in or about 1986 as described above, Hughes was guilty of willful misconduct in the practice of architecture (§ 5584).

On August 13, 1992, a hearing was conducted before an administrative law judge. Considerable evidence was presented concerning Hughes's alleged misrepresentations to the Board as well as his earlier wrongful conduct. On November 19, 1992, a proposed decision...

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