On June 11, 2014 Tony Cobos was a panel speaker at the 26th Annual Advanced Administrative Law course sponsored by the State Bar of Texas. The conference is attended by many agency and defense bar counsel. The subject matter was “Deference to Final Agency Decisions- Point/Counterpoint and Practical Considerations”. Mr. Cobos and Mr. Scott Freshour, Texas Medical Board General Counsel, provided discussion and insight as to legal doctrines of appellate deference to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of ambiguous law or rules. The panel discussed how an agency and defense counsel view and implement this doctrine in practice.
Many of the issues on this doctrine center on whether a statute or rule is truly “ambiguous” and what is meant by an agency’s “reasonable” interpretation. Also discussed were recent statutory changes for Medical Board contested cases providing that Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law after a contested case hearing must be adopted by the Board. However, the Board may still assess discipline in cases finding a violation of law or rules. It remains to be seen how this statutory change on final findings by an Administrative Law Judge will be interpreted for appealed cases as to an agency’s interpretation of law and the scope of agency review. It also remains to be seen whether these changes on final decisions on Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law for physician matters may also be statutorily changed for other licensing entities.