In Texas, various state agencies administer licensed professions. Some of these professions and their respective state agency/board (hereinafter “board”) include lawyers (Texas Board of Law Examiners), doctors (Texas Medical Board), nurses (Texas Board of Nursing), dentists (Texas State Board of Dental Examiners), pharmacists (Texas State Board of Pharmacy), psychologists (Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists), engineers (Texas Board of Professional Engineers), and insurance companies and agents (Texas Department of Insurance). The respective boards that oversee these professions are legislatively charged with maintaining the integrity of the profession or industry, which the board regulates and ensuring that the licensed individuals/companies (hereinafter “Licensee”) are complying with the applicable rules and regulations adopted by the board. Licensees have a vested interest in and are responsible for staying in good standing with the board having jurisdiction over their license(s). Unfortunately, during one’s career, a Licensee may face a complaint against their license. This blog is intended to help individuals and companies understand the administrative process and how to appropriately respond in such a situation.
In the event that you receive a letter from the respective board informing you that a complaint has been made against your personal or business license, you have the right to respond and provide the board with context on the complaint. The board is not looking to hinder your license; it simply needs you to give it the full picture surrounding said complaint. Thus, the first step in dealing with a complaint is to answer each specific inquiry from the board. The complaint could have come from anyone and could be frivolous, which means the board needs you to truthfully explain the situation. Because this first step is critical for the board to have the proper context, it is advisable to seek an attorney before you issue any response to the board. Seeking legal representation at this stage allows you to ensure that the specific inquiries from the board are properly addressed and any evidence you have to counter allegations from the complaint are provided. By giving the board the necessary information it needs up front, you are increasing the chances that the complaint will be dismissed and no further action will be taken against your license.
After a response is issued to the board, the board will review the information and determine how it would like to proceed. If sufficient information was provided through the response, then the board may dismiss the complaint and the Licensee can continue to practice without any hindrance to their license. If the response was not sufficient, however, the board may make further inquiries. If a Licensee is represented by counsel, then the board will be making said inquiries with the attorney and the attorney will help you properly respond to these additional questions. Because it is critical to be responsive to the board and to sufficiently answer any further inquiries, it is advisable to have an attorney through this process as well. The goal in the administrative process is to provide the board with the information it needs to dismiss the complaint and allow you to move forward with your career.
Should the written response and information not be sufficient for the board’s purposes, then the board may require that you participate in an informal conference to discuss the situation in person. An informal conference is your opportunity to talk directly with the board staff and answer any additional questions the board staff may have. In this situation, an attorney can help you prepare for the conference, so you can give the board the information it needs to hopefully dismiss the complaint thereafter.
Should the board decide after a written response and an informal conference to take action against your license, then you would have the opportunity for a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (“SOAH”). However, to the extent possible, one’s objective should be to resolve a complaint well before this stage. SOAH is akin to a bench trial. Like a lawsuit where parties are often encouraged to settle the dispute outside of court because trial is costly and burdensome, in the administrative law process, going to SOAH is also costly and burdensome. At SOAH, the same trial procedures apply and many hours of preparation are involved in preparing for a hearing at SOAH. Thus, it is beneficial to try and resolve a complaint directly with the board. By taking the steps to sufficiently respond to the board from the outset, a Licensee will have a greater chance of achieving this objective.
Theresa Golde and the attorneys at De Leon Washburn & Ward, P.C. are available to assist clients and out-of-state counsel with business and administrative matters. For more information regarding the firm’s practice areas, please visit our Practice Areas page, and please feel free to contact the attorneys at any time.
© De Leon Washburn & Ward, P.C. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between De Leon Washburn & Ward, P.C. or its lawyers and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult an attorney of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Articles are not continuously updated, so information may become out-of-date. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of De Leon Washburn & Ward, P.C.