In early May, the Texas Supreme Court sided with the Constitution, common sense, and plain decency by holding that government cannot lie to individuals about procedures they must follow to vindicate their rights. In a unanimous opinion that heavily relied on IJ’s amicus brief, the court declared that such government deception violates an individual’s due process rights.
The case involved a home health aide named Patricia Mosley. Several years ago, Patricia was investigated by Texas regulators for neglecting a disabled resident. After issuing an administrative ruling against her, the government sent Patricia a letter informing her that she had 30 days to appeal the decision to a district court. Because the ruling threatened to prevent her from ever resuming work in her chosen profession, that is exactly what Patricia did.
But then something strange happened. While Patricia’s appeal made its way through the courts, the government changed its focus from discussing the merits of Patricia’s case to arguing that her petition should be dismissed altogether. The basis for this claim? The fact that Patricia did what she was instructed and petitioned a district court instead of applying for a rehearing in an administrative setting.
The government admitted the explicit instructions it had given Patricia were wrong. Furthermore, the government acknowledged that its own regulations, on the books for 14 years, were also wrong. But it claimed that individuals should know not to trust the instructions they are given. From the government’s perspective, Patricia is responsible for knowledge of the law and should not have relied on the information provided to her by the government. An intermediate court of appeals in Texas agreed.
When IJ heard about Patricia’s situation, we hurried to file an amicus brief in the Texas Supreme Court, urging it to hear the case and to hold that the constitutional guarantee of due process means that the government must provide adequate notice to people, which, at the very least, means that it cannot lie to them.
In its decision, the state supreme court explicitly stated that it was persuaded by IJ’s arguments and unanimously reversed the lower court decision, holding that misrepresentations in the government’s notice “deprived Mosley of her right to judicial review and violated her right to due process.” Patricia’s administrative case is now reinstated and she gets another chance to fight for her right to practice the occupation of her choosing. It was a good day for due process, and thanks to this victory we know there will be many more like it to come.
Anya Bidwell is an IJ attorney.