Baker Botts Wins Due Course of Law Case at The Supreme Court of Texas
Texas Supreme Court held that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) violated Patricia Mosley’s right to due course of law (the Texas constitutional equivalent to due process) when it misrepresented to her the proper procedures required to seek judicial review of an administrative order. After ruling against her in an administrative disciplinary proceeding, the HHSC’s hearing examiner advised her, in conformity with a formally promulgated agency rule, that she could obtain judicial review of the ruling by filing suit within 30 days in Travis County district court.
Ms. Mosley followed these instructions and timely brought suit. In response, HHSC claimed that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because Ms. Mosley did not first seek rehearing in the agency as required by the state Administrative Procedures Act. The district court accepted jurisdiction but affirmed the agency’s ruling, but the court of appeals dismissed her appeal and her underlying suit for want of jurisdiction.
The Texas Supreme Court reversed, returning the case to the agency so that Ms. Mosley can seek rehearing. Its unanimous opinion concluded that the letter and the agency rule it quoted were so misleading that they prevented the challenger from following the correct procedure for judicial review. The Court indicated that the HHSC’s position was “reminiscent of an infamous line from the 1978 film Animal House, which Otter uttered to Flounder. […] ‘Come on, Flounder. You can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes. You [messed] up. You trusted us.’” A three-justice concurrence was even more blunt: “The history of this case gives Texans little reason to trust their government agencies, but hopefully the Court’s decision today helps to reinforce their trust in the Constitution.”
The Court’s opinion is not only important for cementing the principle that agencies cannot trick litigants out of their right to judicial review. It is also important because it will directly affect at least five other cases pending before Texas courts that involve essentially identical issues.
Baker Botts advised Patricia Mosley with a team including Stephanie Cagniart, Kevin Vickers (Picture), Tom Phillips, Evan Young, Stephanie Cagniart, and Kevin Vickers, Paulina Williams and Samia R. Broadaway.
Involved fees earner: Samia Broadaway – Baker Botts; Stephanie Cagniart – Baker Botts; Thomas Phillips – Baker Botts; Kevin Vickers – Baker Botts; Paulina Williams – Baker Botts; Evan Young – Baker Botts;
Law Firms: Baker Botts;
Clients: Patricia Mosley;