Understanding Procedural Rules at the SOAH

In most cases, licensed professionals can informally resolve complaints against them by reaching informal agreements with their respective licensing boards. However, in some cases, an informal resolution to the complaint is impossible. If you cannot resolve your pending disciplinary proceedings by agreement, your case must proceed to a hearing before the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).  

Application of Procedural Rules at SOAH

Just as a specific set of procedural rules generally applies to hearings held in state courts, a specific set of procedural rules generally applies to hearings held in SOAH under 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec.155.1, with a few exceptions. Unless applicable statutes address procedural matters in professional disciplinary proceedings, these procedural rules apply to all hearings in these cases before SOAH. 

Pre-Hearing Procedures

Pre-hearing procedures do not differ markedly from pre-trial procedures in civil  district court cases. These procedures typically appear more quickly in a hearing at SOAH than in a court case in that deadlines may be shorter, but many pre-hearing functions are still similar. 


1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.251 et seq. governs discovery matters in SOAH hearings. Like in court cases, the parties can use discovery tools to obtain information from the opposing party and prepare for the hearing. These tools include depositions, requests for production, interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for disclosures, and expert disclosures and reports. SOAH procedural rules specify deadlines for issuing and responding to discovery requests and limits on the amount of discovery that a party may conduct.

Furthermore, requests for the issuance of subpoenas must go through the licensing agency according to their agency procedures and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The SOAH rules also address discovery-related motions, such as motions to compel, motions for protection, and motions for an in camera inspection.

General Motions

1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.305 outlines the general procedural rules concerning pre-hearing motions. These rules specify some requirements for the content of motions and the deadlines for filing some types of motions. Additionally, the rules state a party must follow deadlines to reply to motions that a party files. 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.307 provides rules specific only to motions for continuances.


1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.401 et seq. governs hearings and prehearings. ALJs may issue orders about the date, time, place, and scope of hearings. These rules also specify how the content of hearings is to be recorded and otherwise preserved. Like judges in regular courts, ALJ have the authority under 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.431 to require and enforce certain standards of decorum during SOAH hearings. 

Under 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.425, the ALJ maintains control over the mode and order of the hearing. The ALJ determines how to present preliminary matters, deal with pending motions, hear opening and closing statements, and provide witness testimony. Generally, the party carrying the burden of proof in the proceeding will present opening and closing statements and evidence first. However, the ALJ can deviate from this order if warranted. 

The ALJ can also specify that the parties make closing arguments orally or in writing. The official record of the hearing closes either on the date the hearing ends or when the written closing arguments from the parties are due, whichever is later. 

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Texas Rules of Evidence

SOAH does not have its own rules concerning evidence, except those outlined in 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.429. Otherwise, the Texas Rules of Evidence “as applied in a nonjury civil case in district court” apply in contested administrative hearings in SOAH.

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Miscellaneous Procedural Rules

The procedural rules that apply to SOAH also contain provisions for other miscellaneous matters. For instance, 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.101 et seq. outlines procedural rules for filing and serving those documents to other parties.

Furthermore, 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.151 et seq. governs the assignment of ALJs to contested cases at SOAHs and procedures for the disqualification or recusal of judges. This section also discusses the powers of ALJs and their sanctioning authority. 

Finally, 1 Tex. Admin. Code Sec. 155.351 outlines procedural rules concerning mediation, which do not apply to every contested case before SOAH. Parties may request mediation, but parties also may object to mediation. Additionally, an ALJ may refer a case to mediation, or for an evaluation to determine whether mediation is appropriate, without the parties’ consent. Licensing agencies can also refer cases to the SOAH solely for mediation purposes, even if they are not contested cases. 

We Will Protect and Defend Your Professional License 

You can count on a Texas licensing board defense attorney at Bertolino LLP, to take all steps necessary to protect your license and career. We will investigate the circumstances that led to your disciplinary proceedings and devise the best strategy for your case. If you wait too long, it may be too late for us to make a difference in the outcome of your case. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.

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