Emergency Order of the SOAH Chief Administrative Law Judge
Second Amended Emergency Order Suspending Certain Live, In-Person Hearings and Mediations Related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
March 31, 2020 – The Governor issued a declaration of disaster in all Texas counties related to the novel corona virus (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020, and subsequent executive orders pertaining to public health and safety, including Executive Order GA-14 of March 31, 2020 relating to the statewide continuity of essential services and activities. Consistent with the Governor’s directives, and the temporary suspension of non-emergency proceedings by various state, county, and local courts across the state, I hereby order the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to temporarily discontinue all non-emergency live, in-person hearings and all live, in-person mediations at all SOAH office locations and remote hearing sites statewide for reasons of public health and safety. This temporary suspension is in effect through the April 30, 2020. This order amends and supersedes the prior emergency orders of March 16 and March 23, 2020.
- General Hearings - Parties to general docket contested cases and mediations that are currently scheduled to take place in-person on or before April 30, 2020 will be contacted directly and given the opportunity to either conduct the proceedings by telephone or request a continuance to a later date. All requests to docket new cases during the suspension period must request either request a telephonic hearing, or request one or more proposed live hearing dates of no earlier than May 1, 2020.
- ALR Hearings - For Administrative Driver’s License (ALR) hearings that are currently scheduled to take place in-person on or before May 15, 2020, SOAH will issue one or more bulk orders and/or grant requests for continuance to continue the hearings to another date and/or give the parties the opportunity to request to conduct the hearing telephonically.
- Emergency Proceedings - During the suspension period, only emergency hearings will be conducted through live, in-person hearings. In emergency hearings, parties and witnesses will be expected to follow social-distancing standards announced by the ALJ as a matter of courtroom decorum. Counsel and parties with a positive COVID-19 test, or any flu-like symptoms—including fever, coughing, or sneezing—should contact SOAH prior to the proceeding. Lawyers should contact SOAH if they are aware that agency staff, clients, witnesses or others have these symptoms. If the parties file an agreed motion, proceedings in these emergency cases may also be conducted telephonically, and/or parties may be permitted to individually appear telephonically.
- Balance Billing Mediation – This order suspending in-person mediations does not apply to mediations relating to consumer health benefits disputes pursuant to the former provisions of Texas Insurance Code, Chapter 1467. These “balance billing” or “surprise medical bill” mediations are not conducted at SOAH or by SOAH mediators, nor does SOAH have any authority over the parties to the mediation, or over the timetable on which the mediations occur. However, SOAH encourages the mediators and parties to those disputes to conduct their mediations telephonically during this time as a precaution to protect public health and safety, and to afford consumers and providers the opportunity to efficiently resolve their disputes without delay.
- IDEA Hearings and Resolution Meetings – The temporary suspension of live, in person hearings as described in Section 1 of this order applies to due process hearings conducted pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to the extent that such hearings are presided over by SOAH ALJs.
Unless the parties otherwise agree in writing, federal law requires local school districts to convene a resolution meeting prior to the initiation of the IDEA due process hearing.1 These resolution sessions are not conducted at SOAH or attended by SOAH ALJs. However, SOAH encourages the parties to conduct these meetings telephonically or by videoconference during this time as a precaution to protect public health and safety, and to help resolve issues related to individual education plans.
Further updates will appear on this website.
SOAH is dedicated both to the timely and fair resolution of the matters before it, as well as to the health and wellbeing of the attorneys, parties, and communities we serve.
Further Information and resources
The most accurate and up-to-date state information on the current coronavirus situation can be found on the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
We encourage you to also review these current fact sheets Symptoms of Coronavirus.
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