Currently I am representing a nursing client in a very serious case against the Texas Board of Nursing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. This matter has been progressing over a long period of time and in the interim my client’s RN license came up for renewal. She filled in the required forms and sent them in along with the mandatory fee. In response she received a letter from BON informing her that they would not renew her license at this time due to the unresolved status of her SOAH proceeding. They have continued to deny her renewal application and so we have been forced to ask for a second SOAH hearing on this issue. Essentially, the BON has made my client seek a separate and additional SOAH proceeding contesting their refusal to renew her license because of the still pending status of the original SOAH proceeding. This makes little sense as a matter of law or logic.
Under the Administrative Procedure Act, a nurse who timely files an application to renew their license ensures that their current license will remain in effect until the final resolution of any ongoing disciplinary proceeding. Texas Government Code § 2001.054. Thus until a final and negative result has emerged from the original SOAH case, the Board can not affect my client’s current nursing license. The only way they could would be through an emergency suspension procedure wherein they would be required to show that my client presents such an immediate and serious threat to the public that the suspension of her license is warranted without a prior hearing. Yet, they did not choose to use this procedure and so must wait till the conclusion of the disciplinary process.
The logic of this rule is clear; unless they can meet the higher showing required of an emergency suspension procedure, the BON cannot sanction a nurse until the contested case process has ended. They have to meet their burden of proof just as any other government agency must before they can take a person’s professional license.
The correct response to my client’s renewal application would have been to either grant it or to stay any decision until the resolution of the prior SOAH action, not an outright denial. Their denial has forced my client to seek, as outlined above, a second contested case proceeding on this issue. If she did not, then after thirty days the Board’s denial would become final meaning that even if she prevailed in the original proceeding her license would have lapsed in the meantime.
What makes it especially difficult to fathom the BON’s action as taken in good faith is the fact that even if they renewed the license, they would be free to suspend, revoke, or apply any other encumbrances to it if they prevail in the ongoing SOAH hearing. A renewed license would have no effect on the array of sanctions that could be opposed if they receive a favorable finding in the underlying proceeding.
The BON’s stance on this issue represents an abusive tactic that contravenes the relevant law and forces my client to suffer the additional emotional strain and attorney fees associated with her need to contest this new issue. This is lamentably another attempt by the Nursing Board to warp the administrative process and strong-arm a nurse when it looks like they might not get what they want.