The Texas State Office of Administrative Hearing (SOAH) is an independent forum where Texas agencies, licensing boards, other governmental entities, and private citizens can resolve legal disputes. If you have a licensing issue with your board that is not resolved by settlement, the matter goes to a hearing at SOAH. While the majority of the licensing dispute matters we handle for our clients are resolved before the need for a SOAH hearing, it is important in our legal practice to have a well-functioning SOAH. Timely and efficient decisions matter to our clients and to us.
According to a report from the Austin Chronicle, a number of the agency's Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) have left the agency because of Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Lesli Ginn. An anonymous letter, dated May 8, 2018, quoted several ALJs on Ginn's tenure at SOAH: "Ginn was described as 'a disaster,' 'the worst boss I have ever worked for,' 'a tsunami on this agency,' 'destroying this agency,' and 'making it so that I hate to come to work each day.'"
Ginn's two-year term at SOAH expired May 1, 2018, so she currently serves at the discretion of Governor Gregg Abbott. Current and former ALJ's have written letters to the Governor and members of the Senate Committee on Nominations, the body that would consider Ginn's reappointment. The Governor has not responded to the controversy.
The Austin Chronicle article cites to issues with Ginn stemming from how she handled a controversy between an ALJ and the Texas Medical Board (TMB). Former ALJ Hunter Burkhalter issued a Proposal for Decision adverse to the TMB. Thereafter the TMB attacked Burkhalter 's credibility and character. In response, Ginn was going to fire Burkhalter, though he resigned "in lieu of termination."
Many felt Ginn's response to Burkhalter created the appearance that she was siding with the TMB rather than acting independently, as state law required her to do. In a letter to Senator Kirk Watson, Committee on Nominations vice chair, former ALJ Renee Rusch wrote: "Every retired SOAH ALJ with whom I have spoken is shaken by Ms. Ginn's actions and her apparent failure to protect ALJ Burkhalter's decisional independence."
Our office will continue to follow updates related to this matter.
BERTOLINO LLP represents licensed professionals across the entire State of Texas. We have successfully helped clients resolve a wide range of complicated legal matters involving professional license defense, medical license defense, and vocational license defense. If your professional license is at risk of suspension or revocation, contact us today or call (512) 717-5432 and schedule a case evaluation.