The Texas State Office of Administrative Hearing (SOAH) hears cases against license holders of Texas licensing boards- regarding complaints filed against the license holder, violations of board rules, and other alleged malfeasance. A SOAH hearing is conducted similar to a courtroom trial operates and serves as the final stage in formal resolution of a board complaint. Prior to the SOAH hearing the parties will have the opportunity to resolve the dispute through mediation.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation affords both parties the opportunity negotiate an agreement and resolve a dispute on their own. There are many benefits to mediation:
- Avoids the risk of having the case decided by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) after a SOAH hearing.
- Allows the parties flexibility to craft creative solutions – whereas an ALJ is bound by the statutes and regulations applicable to your case.
- Avoids additional time and costs of a SOAH hearing.
Though, not all cases can or should be resolved through mediation. Your professional license defense attorney will represent you during the mediation. He or she will help you evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of any settlement offer.
Your SOAH Mediation will be facilitated by an ALJ who is not assigned to your case. The mediator’s role is to be a neutral guide and to facilitate communication between the parties. The mediator cannot issue orders or force the parties to reach an agreement.
The mediation will usually begin with a joint meeting between the parties and the mediator. The mediator will explain the mediation process, answer any questions, and allow each party the opportunity to make a short statement. From there, typically, the mediator will meet with each side separately, called “caucuses.”
Any confidential information shared during a caucus is confidential. The mediator may only share information with the other side that you specifically authorize. If settlement offers or counter-offers are made, the mediator will take the offers back and forth as the caucuses continue.
Additional mediation meetings may happen if necessary. If the parties reach an agreement, it is generally put in writing and signed by both parties. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, then the case proceeds to a formal SOAH hearing before the ALJ assigned to the case.
Preparing for a SOAH Mediation
It is important that you approach mediation in good faith, in an effort to resolve the dispute. We urge any license holder defending their license to have an experienced professional license defense attorney by their side at every stage of the complaint process, including mediation. Your attorney’s job is to craft a solid legal strategy and mount a strong defense for you. Your attorney will also be able to prepare you for the SOAH mediation and all other legal proceedings.
The following are general tips on preparing for a SOAH mediation:
- Bring three copies of any evidence or other documents you have to the mediation (one for the mediator, one for the other side, and one for your reference).
- Make sure you have full settlement authority in the room.
- Understand what your most important needs are.
- Successful negotiations most often involve concessions to reach a compromise. Be prepared to make concessions if necessary.
- Be prepared to state what you want and to articulate why you believe it is appropriate. It may help your case if you explain your reasons for making certain requests.
- Understand your case, the issues involved in it, and realistically assess your options and likely outcomes:
- What evidence do you have to support your defense? How strong is it? Are you relying on witness testimony or documentary evidence, case law, or other authority?
- What evidence does the Board have against you? What are the strengths and weaknesses of their case?
- Consider what you really need to resolve the dispute. Creative solutions may work. Often licensing boards have flexibility as to the kind of sanctions they can impose.
Your end-goal is to protect your professional license, livelihood, and reputation to the greatest extent possible.
Your Right to Have An Attorney Represent You at the SOAH Mediation or Hearing
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at any proceeding before SOAH and the right to an attorney during all stages of the complaint process.
The license defense attorneys of BERTOLINO LLP can help you protect your rights, navigate the legal process, and mount a strong defense. We are experienced license defense attorneys and we know how to navigate the complaint process against any professional, medical, or vocational license. We are prepared to represent you at any legal hearing or proceeding regarding your license, including:
- Temporary Suspension Hearings
- Informal Settlement Conferences (ISC)
- Show Compliance Proceedings
- State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) Proceedings
With years of combined license defense experience and knowledge, our attorneys thoroughly understand state and federal laws and how they apply.
BERTOLINO LLP represents licensed professionals across the entire State of Texas. If you are facing disciplinary action from a professional licensing board, contact us today or call (512) 476-5757 and schedule a case evaluation.