AZA Health Care Client Sees Administrative Judge’s Order Overturned
June 11, 2020
HOUSTON – A federal district judge reversed an administrative law judge’s ruling that could have excluded an AZA health care client from participating in federal health care programs, including Medicare or Medicaid, for 15 years.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison granted the summary judgment motion AZA filed on its client’s behalf. He reversed the administrative judge’s exclusion order requested by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. denied the HHS appeal, affirmed the summary judgment ruling, and entered final judgment in favor of AZA’s client.
The district court agreed with AZA’s arguments that a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision Lucia v. S.E.C. meant that the administrative law judge who ruled against AZA’s client had been unconstitutionally appointed. Lucia found that administrative law judges should only be appointed by the president, a court of law, or the head of a federal department. AZA argued, and the federal district court agreed, that the administrative law judge in this case was not properly appointed. Although the HHS attempted to retroactively ratify that improper appointment, AZA successfully convinced the district court that the administrative law judge had already made several rulings in the case that constituted an impermissible “adjudication” under Lucia, which entitled AZA’s client to a reversal and a new hearing.
“Our client is gratified to see this exclusion order reversed. We showed the district court that the administrative law judge was not properly in office when he made numerous procedural and substantive rulings in the case, which clearly constituted improper adjudications under Supreme Court precedent,” said Weining Bai, an AZA associate who handled the case with fellow associate Kyle Poelker.
The case could now go back to a properly appointed administrative judge to rehear it.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2020 among the best in Texas commercial law; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for eight years running; was named 2019 Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 500 and 1000.