When you have spent years obtaining a professional license and building a career, disciplinary proceedings can be devastating. The licensing agency that regulates your profession may decide to impose disciplinary sanctions on your license that could jeopardize your reputation and your livelihood.
Fortunately, you have the right to appeal those sanctions by requesting an administrative hearing. Our professional license defense attorneys can protect your rights at that hearing and present your side of the story. Together, we can work to defend your license and your future.
The Role of the State Office of Administrative Hearings
In Texas, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) is a separate and independent agency that resolves disputes between professional license holders and the state agencies and boards that regulate them. SOAH offers neutral decision-making when you want to challenge the action that a state agency is trying to take against you concerning your professional or occupational license. However, most of these agencies require that you first take your case to SOAH if you want to dispute the agency decision before you can ask a court to review the decision or otherwise appeal in court.
When your state licensing board or regulatory agency receives a complaint about you, they investigate the complaint and determine whether the evidence shows that you have violated agency rules or laws. You have the right to respond to the allegations against you. In addition, the agency may propose disciplinary sanctions against your license if it finds that you have violated the applicable disciplinary rules or laws.
If you disagree with the agency’s findings or proposed sanctions, you can ask that an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the SOAH hear your case. Once SOAH receives your case, it will assign an ALJ to hear your case. You will receive a Notice of Hearing at least ten days before the date of your hearing. It will explain when and where you should appear at your hearing and summarize the allegations of misconduct that the licensing agency is making against you.
The ALJs are neutral officers who preside over cases; they are also licensed Texas attorneys. It is the responsibility of the ALJ assigned to your case to conduct the hearing, review the evidence, resolve any evidentiary disputes, and listen to the parties’ arguments. The ALJ then will make findings about whether you committed the violations as alleged and what sanctions, if any, should occur as a result of those violations.
The Administrative Hearing Process
An administrative hearing operates much like a hearing in a trial court. However, the ALJ, the attorneys representing you, and the state agency must follow the Rules of Procedure that apply to SOAH hearings. While these rules are similar to those that apply to regular court hearings, they are slightly different. As a result, you can benefit from legal representation by attorneys who regularly handle administrative hearings before the SOAH.
You always have the right to be represented by an attorney at an administrative hearing. We have years of experience defending clients’ interests at administrative hearings related to their professional and occupational licenses. We know how to present evidence in your defense and work to protect your license and your career. An administrative hearing typically proceeds as follows:
- Your attorney and the attorney for the state agency both make an opening statement that summarizes the facts of your case and the position that each side is taking on the case.
- Each party presents evidence to support their position; your attorney will present evidence to defend you against the allegations of misconduct or violations of the law.
- Each party may present witness testimony, which can be by experts or other types of witnesses.
- Throughout the presentation of evidence, the attorneys can make legal objections to questions, statements, or evidence, which the ALJ will decide.
- The attorney for each party will make closing arguments that summarize the evidence that they presented and ask the ALJ to rule in their favor.
Decisions Following Administrative Hearings
Although these procedures vary from one agency proceeding to the next, the ALJ generally will make recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law and submit them to the board or commission of the agency that regulates the professional license at issue. It then typically is the responsibility of that board or commission to issue a final order in the disciplinary case. In some cases, however, the ALJ does issue a final decision in the case.
Don’t Attend Your SOAH Hearing Without Legal Representation
SOAH hearings are formal and require the understanding and application of procedural and substantive rules throughout those hearings. As a result, having an experienced administrative hearing license defense attorney can be essential to a positive outcome in your case. You can reach the offices of Bertolino, LLP by calling (512) 515-9518 today or filling out our contact form online.