When a complaint case against a professional's license is not able to be settled—whether because it cannot be for some reason or because one side in the conflict refuses to do so—it will pass through to the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for adjudication. Hearings that reach the stage of SOAH adjudication are sometimes referred to as "contested hearings" or "formal hearings."
This is by no means the outcome for most cases involving complaints—most of them come to a resolution before reaching this stage. Indeed, it is quite possible to resolve complaints early in the process if one can demonstrate to the licensing Board that no violations have occurred via an early response letter or in the course of investigations. And once an investigation is underway, generally, there will be informal settlement conferences provided for in the due process afforded a licensee by their boards. Those informal settlement conferences provide an opportunity for reaching a settlement agreement regarding the discipline that will be acceptable to both parties, given the state of the case. These may fend off the more intense discipline that may occur in the wake of a formal, contested hearing.
SOAH, for its part, is a forum independent from any of the licensing agencies or boards. Its purpose is to settle particular legal disputes between government agencies, including licensing boards, and members of the public—such as licensees who are under fire. A third party with organizational neutrality—an Administrative Law Judge—presides over these hearings, which proceed very similar to a courtroom trial. The parties question witnesses and produce evidence—and, just as they are at every stage in the process, the licensee is permitted to have an attorney to represent them.
When the contested hearing ends, the Administrative Law Judge hands down a recommendation for the case's proper resolution. Licensing boards usually take the Judge's recommendation, but they are not necessarily bound to—depending on which professional Board or agency one is dealing with.
But let's be clear: from the get-go of the complaint process, the moment you receive notice of the complaint—and whether or not you believe there is a basis for the complaint—you should contact an experienced professional defense attorney. It is up to you to take every conceivable action to get the complaint dismissed and, if the case goes to a SOAH hearing, to get your case argued as forcefully as possible. That means your very first step should be to call us here at BERTOLINO LLP as soon as you are able. Failing to do so may well mean the loss of your license.
Professional License Defense
BERTOLINO LLP provides aggressive advocacy for establishments and professionals who are facing disciplinary action before a licensing body—for any reason. We know how to build a strong case to protect your license—and your livelihood. We highly recommend that no professional attempt to handle a complaint made against their license without the aid of a professional license defense attorney.
Our law firm helps professionals like you keep their licenses when those licenses are under attack by a state agency or Board.
With offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, we serve clients all over the state. As experienced attorneys well-versed in state and federal laws, we know how to win. Our results speak for themselves!