State Office of Administrative Hearings
State Office of Administrative Hearings
 

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Hearings At SOAH

Law and Rules Governing Hearings

Every proceeding at SOAH is governed by a set of procedural rules.  A complete list of procedural rules can be found in the Research Tools section of this website.  In most cases, SOAH's own procedural rules apply.  However, different procedural rules apply in some cases heard at SOAH.  If you are involved in any of the following types of hearings, the specific rules for that hearing applies:

Sometimes the procedural rules listed above also refer to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure external web site or the Texas Rules of Evidence external web site.  Remember, links to all of these rules can be found in the Research Tools section of this website.


Cases at SOAH usually involve two sources of law: the statute or code (for example, the Texas Insurance Code or the Texas Water Code); and the referring agency's substantive rules, which are different from procedural rules, and are found in the Texas Administrative Code external web site.  Normally, the law that applies to your case may be found in the referring agency's notice of hearing.  This is usually the best place to look to determine the specific law for your case.

In the Research Tools section, you will find a link for Texas Statutes external web site.  Use this tool to locate and search for the law that applies to your case.  Research Tools also has a link to the Texas Administrative Code external web site, where you can search for the agency's substantive rules that apply to your case.

SOAH strongly encourages hearing participants to review and be familiar with the procedural rules and law that apply to their cases.  In addition to this website, the laws and rules are available online and at many public and county courthouse libraries.

Prehearing Procedures

Notice of Hearing – The notice of hearing identifies the issues in the case and the applicable law and rules, and informs the parties of the time, date, and place of the hearing.

Communication with the ALJ – Except for issues raised at a pre-hearing or post-hearing conference or a hearing, communication of any information with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) about a case, including requests for relief, must be in writing and must show copies have been sent to all parties in the case.  Generally, motions must be filed at least seven days before the hearing.

Discovery – In most cases, the Administrative Procedure Act external web site and SOAH's rules allow a party to prepare for hearing by "discovering" relevant information.  Discovery is obtained by deposing witnesses, obtaining documents from the other parties, or asking written questions of the other parties.

Continuances – A request for a continuance (rescheduling of a hearing) is governed by SOAH's procedural rules.  The request must be in writing and be filed at least five days before the hearing, unless there is a good reason for a later request.  The request must explain why a continuance is necessary, specify a proposed date or dates to which the hearing should be reset, indicate the person requesting the continuance has attempted to contact the other parties, and state whether any party objects to the continuance.  The ALJ will not contact the other parties to determine whether they agree to the continuance.

The decision to grant or deny a motion for continuance is within the ALJ's discretion.  If the ALJ has not ruled on the request for continuance by the time of the hearing, the hearing will be convened as scheduled.  Unless a ruling has been made, parties should not assume a motion for continuance has been granted.

Telephone and Videoconference Proceedings

In certain circumstances, the ALJ may conduct a pre-hearing or post-hearing conference or the hearing by telephone or videoconference.  A party must request permission to participate (or call a witness) by telephone or videoconference at least ten days before the conference or hearing, unless there is a good reason for a later request.  The request must include the telephone number at which the party can be reached, or in the case of a videoconference request, the city in which the party or witness will be located.

Hearing Procedures

Opening Statement – Each party may explain its position in the case, briefly outlining what it will prove.  The opening statement is not required and is not evidence.

Presentation of Evidence – In most cases, the party requesting action must show by evidence (testimony, records, etc.) it is entitled to the relief it seeks.  Usually, this party presents its evidence first, followed by the other parties.

Witnesses – Each party may call witnesses.  Witnesses first answer questions from the party who called them and then may be cross-examined by opposing parties.  In some circumstances witnesses may be required to wait outside the hearing room until they are called to testify.

Exhibits – If a party intends to offer a document into evidence, the party must provide a copy for the ALJ, a copy for each other party, and a copy for itself.  The person who prepared a document may need to testify about it before it can be admitted as evidence.  Some documents may be inadmissible hearsay under the Texas Rules of Evidence and may be excluded by the ALJ.  Letters to the ALJ or the agency are not evidence unless offered by one of the parties and admitted.  The Texas Rules of Evidence external web site govern objections and what may be admitted as evidence.

Objections – Any party may object to questions, testimony, or exhibits.  An objection must have a legal reason.  The ALJ will either "sustain" the objection (excluding the testimony or exhibit from the record) or "overrule" the objection (admitting the evidence into the record), in accordance with the Texas Rules of Evidence external web site.

Closing Statement – Each party may summarize what the evidence shows and argue why the ALJ should recommend a decision in that party's favor.  The closing statement is not evidence.  Sometimes, the ALJ will ask for written closing briefs instead of closing argument.  Closing briefs are the same as argument, in written form.  In that case, the ALJ will give the parties additional time to write and submit closing briefs.

Proposal for Decision

In most cases, after the hearing record is complete, the ALJ will send all the parties a Proposal for Decision (PFD) based on the evidence admitted at the hearing.  In the PFD, the ALJ will discuss the issues and recommend a specific outcome to the ultimate decision maker at the referring agency.  Each party may object to the PFD by filing written exceptions with SOAH and the referring state agency within the deadlines set by order or the applicable rules.  The decision-making body of the referring agency will consider the PFD, the exceptions, and any replies to the exceptions before making its final decision.

In the administrative license revocation hearings, workers' compensation appeals, child support enforcement hearings, actions to correct law enforcement officers' termination reports, and some Department of Family and Protective Services complaints, the SOAH ALJ will make the final decision.  SOAH will send a copy of the written decision to each party to the case.

Location And Parking

SOAH's main office is located in the William P. Clements Building, 300 West 15th Street, Suite 502, Austin, Texas 78701.

Unless the notice of hearing states otherwise, SOAH hearings in Austin are held in hearing rooms on the fourth floor in the Clements Building.  Because SOAH is located near the State Capitol, parking is limited, and hearing participants should plan accordingly.  The Capitol Visitors Parking Garage is located at 1201 San Jacinto.  Other paid parking lots and garages are located in the vicinity of the Clements Building.  One may arrange for disability parking by contacting SOAH's Parking Coordinator at (512) 475-4993 at least three days before the hearing.

Additional Information

This section provides general information and is not a complete guide to SOAH's hearing process.  If you have a specific question, you could try the Frequently Asked Questions.  Persons involved in a SOAH case and needing legal advice should consult an attorney.

Equal Opportunity Policy

It is SOAH's policy to afford equal employment opportunity to qualified individuals regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability, and to comply with applicable laws and regulations.  SOAH recognizes the value and strength of a workforce that is culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse, and our goal is to continue to seek ways of promoting and maintaining such an environment at this agency.

Likewise, SOAH management is committed to using historically underutilized firms when possible for the provision of goods and services.