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Architect Board License Defense Lawyers

Architect Board License Defense Lawyers

Architects are licensed professionals who design buildings and structures. They must complete education and experience requirements and pass exams to obtain their license. Like other licensed professions, architects are subject to discipline by state licensing boards if they violate laws or regulations. When an architect faces potential discipline, having an experienced attorney can be crucial to mount an effective defense and preserve their career.

Common Reasons Architects Get Disciplined

There are various reasons an architect may face discipline by their state licensing board. Some common issues that prompt investigations and potential sanctions include:

  • Negligence or errors in design that result in problems with the building or structure
  • Failure to properly supervise or review the work of others on a project
  • Practicing architecture without a valid, current license
  • Criminal convictions related to the practice of architecture
  • Violating building codes or regulations
  • Misrepresentation of qualifications or experience
  • Unethical conduct such as conflicts of interest, kickbacks, or inappropriate relationships with clients or contractors
  • Substance abuse issues that impair their ability to practice competently

Disciplinary actions can range from reprimands and fines to limitations or temporary suspension of a license. In severe cases, an architect may have their license permanently revoked which effectively ends their career.

The Disciplinary Process

The disciplinary process typically begins when a complaint is filed against the architect by a client, contractor, building official or member of the public. The state licensing board will investigate the allegations to determine if they warrant disciplinary action. The architect will be notified of the complaint and given a chance to respond.

If the board believes discipline is justified, there may be a formal hearing where both sides present evidence and testimony. The board will then make a decision on appropriate sanctions based on the severity of the violations. Architects have the right to appeal board decisions to the courts.

Having legal counsel experienced in representing architects before licensing boards is extremely helpful for several reasons:

  • They understand the disciplinary process and burdens of proof
  • They can evaluate the evidence objectively and identify potential defenses
  • They know how to present the architect’s side effectively to the board
  • They can negotiate settlements when appropriate to minimize sanctions
  • They can ensure proper procedures are followed to preserve appeal rights if necessary

Common Defenses in Disciplinary Cases

There are various defenses architects can raise in disciplinary proceedings. A knowledgeable lawyer can assess the case and utilize appropriate defenses to achieve the best outcome for the architect.

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Christine Twomey
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Guerline Menard
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Lack of Evidence

If the board lacks sufficient evidence to prove violations occurred, this can defeat the disciplinary action. Eyewitnesses, documentation, expert testimony or other evidence may be necessary to establish the architect’s errors or misconduct. If proof is absent or inconclusive, the board may have to dismiss the case.

Negligence by Others

Often architects work on projects with many other parties like engineers, contractors and inspectors. If evidence shows errors or violations were actually committed by someone other than the architect, it weakens the case against them.

Due Process Violations

Boards must follow proper legal procedures when investigating and prosecuting cases against architects. This includes providing adequate notice, following rules of evidence, and avoiding bias or conflicts of interest. Procedural defects may provide grounds to overturn disciplinary actions.

Disproportional Sanctions

The disciplinary sanctions imposed must be proportionate to the architect’s violations. Even if some misconduct occurred, the penalties can’t be excessive in light of the offenses. Arguments to reduce sanctions are often effective.


If violations resulted from substance abuse or mental health issues, demonstrating the architect sought treatment and is rehabilitated can persuade boards to be more lenient.

No Harm Occurred

Disciplinary cases prompted by complaints often assume someone suffered damages due to the architect’s actions. But if the project was successfully completed with no injuries or adverse effects, it undercuts the need for discipline.


Boards may view architects more favorably if they voluntarily reported their own errors or ethical breaches. Self-reporting shows accountability and may justify lighter sanctions.

Selecting an Attorney

Not every lawyer has the right skills and experience to handle architect disciplinary cases. When choosing legal counsel, architects should look for these important qualifications:

  • Extensive knowledge of the state architecture practice act and licensing board rules
  • Past experience representing architects before the board on similar matters
  • Strong grasp of laws and regulations governing building design and construction
  • Ability to work collaboratively with design professionals and understand technical issues
  • Skill at negotiating settlements with the board when appropriate
  • Proven track record of achieving successful outcomes for clients in prior cases

It’s also wise to choose an attorney who specializes in professional licensing defense, not a generalist. Handling these unique cases regularly allows lawyers to be highly proficient in defending architects.

The Value of Retaining Counsel

Navigating the disciplinary process is extremely difficult for architects without legal guidance. Experienced counsel is invaluable for:

    • Evaluating the board’s evidence and case strengths/weaknesses
    • Formulating the best defense strategy
    • Gathering exculpatory evidence and expert testimony
    • Presenting the architect’s defense effectively
    • Negotiating a favorable settlement where appropriate
    • Ensuring proper procedures are followed

The Value of Retaining Counsel

Navigating the disciplinary process is extremely difficult for architects without legal guidance. Experienced counsel is invaluable for:

  • Evaluating the board’s evidence and case strengths/weaknesses
  • Formulating the best defense strategy
  • Gathering exculpatory evidence and expert testimony
  • Presenting the architect’s defense effectively
  • Negotiating a favorable settlement where appropriate
  • Ensuring proper procedures are followed
  • Preserving the architect’s rights to appeal if necessary

A knowledgeable lawyer serves as an advisor and advocate to build the strongest case possible. They can also be an objective third party assessing the situation and providing guidance on realistic outcomes. Having experienced counsel greatly improves an architect’s chances of avoiding severe discipline.

The Disciplinary Hearing

If a settlement can’t be reached with the board, the case typically proceeds to a formal hearing. Both the board and architect present evidence and testimony before a panel or administrative law judge. Some key aspects of disciplinary hearings include:

  • The burden is on the board to prove violations by “clear and convincing” evidence.
  • The architect has the right to cross-examine the board’s witnesses.
  • Technical evidence is often introduced like documents, drawings, reports, and expert testimony.
  • Witnesses may be called by both sides to testify on the architect’s conduct.
  • The architect may testify, but also has the right against self-incrimination.
  • Proper procedures for notice, evidence, and due process must be followed.

After considering all the evidence and arguments, the panel will issue a decision on the architect’s discipline. Sanctions may be upheld, reduced, or overturned. The architect can appeal the final decision to the courts if grounds exist to contest the outcome.

Typical Disciplinary Sanctions

If architects are found culpable of violations, the board can impose various disciplinary sanctions such as:

  • Reprimand – A letter formally admonishing the architect for misconduct.
  • Probation – Allowing continued practice under conditions like supervision or reporting.
  • Limitation – Restricting the architect’s scope of practice.
  • Suspension – Temporarily revoking the architect’s license.
  • Revocation – Permanently canceling the architect’s license.
  • Fines – Monetary penalties for violations.
  • Continuing Education – Requiring additional training related to offenses.
  • Community Service – Mandating unpaid work to benefit the public.

A carefully crafted defense strategy can often help minimize sanctions imposed. But in severe cases of misconduct, boards may have little discretion to be lenient even with a vigorous defense.

Reinstatement of a Revoked License

If an architect has their license permanently revoked, they may be able to seek reinstatement after a specified period of time, such as two years. To qualify for reinstatement, they typically must:

  • Submit a formal petition to the board requesting reinstatement.
  • Pay any fines or penalties that were assessed.
  • Complete all ethics training or other mandates.
  • Provide proof of rehabilitation if violations involved substance abuse.
  • Fully comply with all reinstatement conditions set by the board.
  • Pass a reinstatement examination or other assessment if required.

The board will evaluate the petition and evidence of rehabilitation to decide if reinstatement should be granted. Having legal counsel assist with the reinstatement process can greatly improve the chances it will be successful.


Facing disciplinary action from a state architectural licensing board can severely impact an architect’s career. Having the guidance of an experienced attorney is essential to mount the strongest defense possible. Architects should retain counsel knowledgeable in board rules and procedures who can effectively advocate for the best resolution under the circumstances.

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