Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
Issue link: http://uscgproceedings.epubxp.com/i/617100
29 Winter 2015–2016 Proceedings www.uscg.mil/proceedings down the reins for Sector New Orleans investigations while I focused on preparing for the hearing. We chose the frst week of June for the hearing date, which was a fairly aggres- sive timeline, but I wanted to move forward quickly because I knew my ASIO would be transferring out, and I would be needed back at Sector New Orleans. Weeks few by as the team, working from our separate units, fnalized the witness list, developed a list of questions for each witness, and assembled the evidence/exhibits we would need for each. One thing that saved us quite a bit of time was developing our script from an Investigations National Center of Expertise (INV-NCOE) script that had worked well for them. As the hearing approached, we sent out the fnalized list of witnesses to the parties of interest as well as the wit- ness subpoenas. We decided on the order of testimony that would best tell the story, then fnalized the script, witness questions, and exhibit binders. In addition to 32 exhibit binders for the investigations team, the NTSB, the parties of interest, and the witnesses, we also prepared staff binders holding the script and the questions for each witness. Each binder was numbered, assigned to a specifc person, and handed out each morning and retrieved every afternoon during the hearing to ensure accountability for each piece of paper. The Hearing Site The city of Galveston had a new judicial complex, and they offered one of their courtrooms free of charge. Though some feel a courtroom isn't the most effective setting for admin- istrative hearings, this facility had everything we needed: • plenty of free parking, • a side room for the investigations team to meet with the parties of interest privately, • security, • state-of-the-art visual and audio equipment. Further, the judicial complex provided two IT techs for the duration of the hearing, streamed the entire hearing, and it was all free. Though District Eight was set to fund the hearing, such cost considerations helped make this a very favorable venue. Expect the Unexpected Shortly after I took over the investigation, district legal made a determination that I couldn't re-interview any witnesses already interviewed prior to my arrival. We could only con- tact these people regarding whether we would be calling them as witnesses at the hearing — all other questioning would have to wait for the formal proceeding. This was a new one for me. I'd participated in the prepara- tion for several hearings, as well as countless suspension and revocation cases, and we had always been able to go back to the well as many times as needed to be ready for the hearing. Then there was a further complication: One of the key wit- nesses refused to comply with the Coast Guard subpoena. This meant I had to make a quick, unexpected trip to Hous- ton to stand next to the U.S. attorney in front of a federal judge to plead our case for subpoena enforcement. Fortu- nately, we were successful, and I'm hopeful my experience will keep others from having to deal with the same issue in the future. Keep the Focus There were a few other changes necessary mid-stream, which we made as the situation required. For example, I wanted as many members of the team to get experience questioning witnesses during the hearing as possible, since the more of us who could get such experience under our Tips and Tricks ■ Good Team and Time Management Are Critical Start out right by choosing a good team, then dele- gate. You'll be shocked at how fast the time goes, especially if you're working on other cases. ■ IT Support Make sure one of your team members is an IT wizard. ■ Pre-Hearing Prep Do not underestimate the time and efort it takes to put exhibit binders together. ■ Choose the Right Venue There are many things to consider, and they will be diferent for every hearing. Be sure to consider local community and media interest, security, room size, seating, parking, audio/visual equipment, and cost. ■ Be Flexible, Be Ready For Anything, and Be Ready to Make Hard Choices ■ Working with Partners? Build a Bridge When the USCG has the lead in an investigation with other agencies, conficting policies can cause some angst at the feld level. Develop a positive working relationship with other agency lead investigators.