Friday, May 8, 2009

Texas State Senate Considers Extending Powers of Administrative Law Judges

The state legislators in Texas are looking for ways to curb the problem of young girls and teenagers being lured over our border from Mexico and Central America and then being forced, or driven out of desperation, into the sex trade. More vigilant patrols by law enforcement are certainly a possibility. There is also the option of increasing the fines and more severe penalties for employers who knowingly hire underage females for their club's entertainment. Another proposal, which was approved today to be considered for a vote by the full Senate, would greatly increase the powers of a segment of our state government's bureaucracy. The legislature will now have to decide if redefining the scope of one office is justified when the purpose is to protect young people.

The proposed bill would give state administrative judges the power to issue injunctions, with this decision currently held by state district judges only. These judges (known as ALJs) currently serve to hear cases referred to them by more than sixty state agencies. Right now, they are perhaps most widely known as the judges who handle complaints that are brought before panels such as the state medical and pharmacy boards. To allow these judges the ability to issue injunctions to places of business would open a completely new area of responsibility.

The bill is sponsored by State Senator Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, who states that, "Everyone is standing together to stop these crimes involving these teenage girls who are victims." He has the support of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission in his efforts.

One of the body's members who has some doubt about the legislation is State Senator Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, as he believes that, “This goes way around what the law allows now. The change being proposed here is a big change.”

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP have extensive experience in front of administrative law judges due to our work with clients who have been brought before medical and nursing boards. If ALJs are given the power to impose injunctions on Texas businesses, we will be ready to help your business defend itself against this threat to your livelihood. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio today if you have any questions about how the significant change may affect you.

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