As summarized in a previous article, the process of defending a complaint filed at the Texas Medical Board (TMB) is complex and lengthy. And while in many cases, the dispute is resolved at the informal settlement stage, the proceedings can and often do make it to a final hearing. In those instances, a single administrative law judge at the State Office of Administrative Hearings will review the evidence, hear testimony, and ultimately decide on the merits. If the respondent receives an unfavorable ruling, they may initially appeal to a state district court and ultimately to a court of appeals. This article outlines the basic process of appealing an adverse decision on a complaint to a state district court.
1. File a Notice of Appeal: To begin the appeal process, you must first file a motion for reconsideration with the TMB. It will either be granted or denied. If it is not ruled on within 45 days, it is denied by operation of law and you have perfected your right of appeal. Then you file a notice of appeal with the Travis County District Court within the required timeframe, usually within 30 days of the decision. You will need to follow the court's specific procedures for filing the notice.
2. Obtain the Record. Request a certified copy of the administrative record from the TMB. This includes all relevant documents and evidence from the proceedings, such as hearing transcripts, exhibits, and any other supporting materials. The TMB must provide the record to the district court.
3. Briefing: Both parties will submit written arguments, or briefs, outlining their positions on the case. These briefs will include legal arguments and references to applicable laws and cases.
Your brief will be filed first and present your arguments and legal analysis challenging the decision. The brief should clearly outline the errors made by the TMB and explain why the decision should be overturned. It is important to understand that agency decisions are reviewed based on a substantial evidence test. The court does not look at the case de novo or without in any deference to the agency decision. The agency decision will be upheld if there is more than a scintilla of evidence to support it, which means there is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion reached by the administrative law judge.
The TMB will then respond, presenting counter-arguments. You will have an opportunity to reply to TMB’s brief.
4. Oral Arguments: The court may schedule oral arguments where both parties to present their arguments in person. The judges may ask questions and seek clarification during this stage.
5. Decision: After considering all the evidence and arguments, the court will issue a decision. If the court finds in your favor, they may reverse the TMB's decision or order a new hearing. If the court upholds the TMB's decision, the disciplinary action will stand.
6. Further Appeals: Depending on the outcome, either party may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court, such as the Texas Court of Appeals or the Texas Supreme Court.
If you have been disciplined by the Texas Medical Board and you believe that the decision was unjust, you have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. But like at the administrative level, the appeal process is lengthy and complex. Meaning, in some instances an appeal may not be a worthwhile course of action. As such, it is important to consult with counsel on the various factors to consider in determining whether to appeal.