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RULE §155.5Definitions

When used in this chapter, the following words and terms have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

  (1) Administrative law judge or judge--An individual appointed to serve as a presiding officer by SOAH's chief judge under Tex. Gov't Code Chapter 2003.

  (2) Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR--Processes used at SOAH to resolve disputes outside or in connection with contested cases, including mediation, mini-trials, early neutral evaluation, and arbitration.

  (3) APA--The Administrative Procedure Act, Tex. Gov't Code Chapter 2001.

  (4) Arbitration--A form of ADR, governed by an agreement between the parties or special rules or statutes providing for the process in which a third-party neutral issues a decision after a streamlined and simplified hearing. Arbitrations may be binding or non-binding, depending on the agreement, statutes, or rules. See Chapters 156 and 163 of this title for procedural rules specifically governing the arbitration of certain nursing home and assisted living facility enforcement cases referred by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

  (5) Authorized representative--An attorney authorized to practice law in the State of Texas or, if authorized by applicable law, a non-attorney designated by a party to represent the party.

  (6) Business day--A weekday on which state offices are open.

  (7) Chief Judge--The chief administrative law judge of SOAH.

  (8) Confidential Information--confidential information includes:

    (A) information made confidential by law;

    (B) information otherwise protected from disclosure by law or order of the presiding judge or a court; and

    (C) documents submitted in camera, solely for the purpose of obtaining a ruling on the discoverability or admissibility of such documents.

  (9) Discovery--The process of compulsory disclosure by a party, upon another party's request, of information, including facts and documents, relating to a contested case.

  (10) Electronic filing or filed electronically--The electronic transmission of documents filed in a contested case referred to SOAH by uploading the documents to the case docket using the electronic filing manager, eFileTexas.gov, established by the Office of Court Administration and an electronic filing service provider certified by the Office of Court Administration, or in another the manner specified on SOAH's website, www.soah.texas.gov.

  (11) Electronic Filing Service Provider or EFSP--An online web portal service offered by an independent third-party provider for use in electronically filing documents at SOAH and judicial courts of record, and that acts as the intermediary between the filer and the eFileTexas.gov system. Filers must create an account with an EFSP that is certified by the Office of Court Administration in order to electronically file documents at SOAH. A list of EFSP's that have met the requirements for certification by the Office of Court Administration is available www.efiletexas.gov.

  (12) Electronic signature or signed electronically--An electronic version of a person's signature that is the legal equivalent of the person's handwritten signature, unless the document is required to be notarized or sworn. Electronic signature formats include:

    (A) an "/s/" and the person's name typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear;

    (B) an electronic graphical image or scanned image of the signature; or

    (C) a "digital signature" based on accepted public key infrastructure technology that guarantees the signers identity and data integrity.

  (13) Electronic service or served electronically--The electronic transmission of documents filed in a matter referred to SOAH to a party or a party's authorized representative by means of an Electronic Filing Service Provider.

  (14) Ex Parte Communication--Direct or indirect communication between a state agency, person, or representative of those entities and the presiding judge or other SOAH hearings personnel in connection with an issue of law or fact in a contested case or arbitration under SOAH's jurisdiction where the other known parties to the proceeding do not have notice of the communication and an opportunity to participate. Ex parte communication does not include:

    (A) communication where the parties to the proceeding have notice of the communication and an opportunity to participate;

    (B) communication concerning uncontested administrative or uncontested procedural matters;

    (C) consultation between the presiding judge and other SOAH judges, SOAH legal counsel, or hearings personnel;

    (D) consultation between the presiding judge and another disinterested expert on the law applicable to a proceeding before the judge, if the judge gives notice to the parties of the person consulted and the substance of the advice, and affords the parties reasonable opportunity to respond;

    (E) ex parte communications required for the disposition of an ex parte matter or otherwise expressly authorized by law; and

    (F) communications between a state agency, party, person, or representative of those entities and a SOAH mediator made in an effort to evaluate a contested matter for mediation, or to mediate or settle matters.

  (15) Evidence--Testimony and exhibits admitted into the record to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.

  (16) Exhibits--Documents, records, photographs, and other forms of data compilation, regardless of media, or other tangible objects offered by a party as evidence.

  (17) Filed--The receipt and acceptance for filing by SOAH's docketing department.

  (18) IDEA--The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

  (19) Media or media agency--A person or organization regularly engaged in news gathering or reporting, including any newspaper, radio or television station or network, news service, magazine, trade paper, professional journal, or other news reporting or news gathering entity.

  (20) Mediation--A confidential, informal dispute resolution process in which an impartial person, the mediator, facilitates communication among the parties to promote settlement, reconciliation, or understanding.

  (21) Party--A person named or admitted to participate in a case before SOAH.

  (22) Person--An individual, representative, corporation, or other entity, including a public or non-profit corporation, or an agency or instrumentality of federal, state, or local government.

  (23) Personal Identifying Information--Information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a specific individual, and that, is protected from unlawful use, possession, or disclosure. Personal identifying information includes an individual's:

    (A) Social Security number, taxpayer identification number, driver's license number, passport number, or similar government-issued personal identification number;

    (B) bank account number, credit card number, or other financial account number;

    (C) telecommunication access device as defined by Section 32.51, Penal Code;

    (D) date of birth;

    (E) mother's maiden name;

    (F) full name, if the person is a minor;

    (G) unique biometric data, including the individual's fingerprint, voice print, and retina or iris image; and

    (H) information that identifies the individual and relates to:

      (i) the physical or mental health or condition of the individual;

      (ii) the provision of health care to the individual; or

      (iii) payment for the provision of health care to the individual.

  (24) Pleading--A filed document that requests procedural or substantive relief, makes claims, alleges facts, makes legal argument(s), or otherwise addresses matters involved in the case.

  (25) PUC--The Public Utility Commission of Texas.

  (26) Redaction--To redact information means to remove confidential references from the document.

  (27) Referring agency--A state board, commission, department, agency, or other governmental entity that refers a contested case or other matter to SOAH.

  (28) SOAH--The State Office of Administrative Hearings.

  (29) Stipulation--A binding agreement among opposing parties concerning a relevant issue or fact.

  (30) TAC--The Texas Administrative Code.

  (31) TCEQ--The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

  (32) TRCP--The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The TRCP are found on the website of the Texas Supreme Court.

  (33) TRE--The Texas Rules of Evidence. The TRE are found on the website of the Texas Supreme Court.

Source Note: The provisions of this §155.5 adopted to be effective November 26, 2008, 33 TexReg 9451; amended to be effective January 1, 2017, 41 TexReg 8593; amended to be effective November 29, 2020, 45 TexReg 8295

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