If you've been notified of a complaint filed against you with your professional licensing board, you may be reeling, and your first reactions may be anger, fear, confusion. In some cases, the person or entity who lodged the complaint against you will be identified in the notice the board sends to you. However, in some cases the licensing board will not identify the complainant.
If the complaint notification is silent as to who is making allegations against you of wrongdoing or other professional misconduct, what can you do? You may be wondering how you should respond to the board and defend yourself without knowing which person, patient, client, colleague, or entity lodged the complaint against you.
Can I Find Out Who Filed a Complaint Against Me with the Licensing Board?
In some cases, the answer is no, particularly when facing complaints regarding the health care industry. Complainants may remain confidential indefinitely. In fact, some licensing boards have an affirmative duty to maintain the confidentiality of the complainant.
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) must keep the identity of the complainant confidential by law. This is the TMB's method to help ensure that individuals are not afraid to report violations of the TMB rules or the Medical Practice Act. The exception to the confidentiality mandate is if the complaint is filed by an insurance or pharmaceutical company, then the TMB can disclose the identity of the complainant. And any person or entity has the right to register a complaint against a medical professional licensed by the TMB, though the TMB cannot accept complaints submitted anonymously.
The Texas Board of Nursing (BON) also has a duty to keep the complainant's identity confidential throughout the process of the investigation into the allegations. Even in cases where the Board ultimately takes disciplinary action against the nurse, the source of the complaint remains confidential. The Board is authorized to have access to protected patient information based on its health oversight activities. If records must be filed publicly, all confidential and identifying information is redacted. The BON states that "every effort is made to protect the identity of patients during the entire process of the investigation."
What About My Right to Confront My Accuser?
Generally, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants you the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you. Specifically, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation" and "to be confronted with the witnesses" against you. However, the Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, and applies only to criminal prosecutions. Investigating complaints filed with Texas licensing boards are administrative matters, not criminal matters. Though in some cases, for certain behavior, a criminal case can run in tandem with a board investigation.
However, if the complaint moves to formal legal proceedings, before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) or other governing body, it is more likely that you will be able to find out the identity of the complainant. Under general Texas procedural rules, you will have the ability to cross-examine witnesses testifying against you in the legal proceeding itself. Also, as the case moves to formal resolution you may be able to obtain the complainant's identity and other specifics about the allegations through requests for disclosure in the discovery process.
Your Right to Defend Your Professional License Against Allegations of Misconduct
No matter which Texas licensing board, agency, or commission you are under investigation by, you have the right to defend yourself and the right to an attorney. Hiring an attorney to help you mount a strong defense serves to protect your license, reputation, fiscal interests, and your career; it does not make you look guilty.
Our firm believes that immediately consulting an experienced license defense attorney to review allegations of misconduct helps ensure the most favorable outcome in your case. Our results speak for themselves.
Our law firm helps professionals, like you, keep their licenses when those licenses are under attack by a state agency or board.
If you have been notified of a complaint filed against you with a licensing board, agency, or commission in Texas, BERTOLINO LLP can help. 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.
Contact us today or call (512) 717-5432 and schedule a case evaluation.
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