Section 22-11A-64

Appeal process.

(a) Any health care worker who has appealed the State Health Officer's final order to the State Committee of Public Health and who is aggrieved by the outcome may appeal that decision by filing a notice of appeal in the circuit court of his or her county of residence or in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County within 30 days of the issuance of the final decision of the State Committee of Public Health.

(b) The health care worker may be represented by counsel or may participate in proceedings in the court on his or her own behalf. If the health care worker elects to represent himself or herself, the pleadings, documents, and evidence filed with the court shall be liberally construed to do substantial justice. The court shall provide assistance to the health care worker in preparing and filing the notice of appeal and shall take those steps that are necessary to keep the health care worker's identity confidential. The assistance may be provided by court personnel.

(c) The court shall consider an application for stay of the final decision of the State Committee of Public Health under the same standard applicable to an application for preliminary injunction. In no event shall a stay be granted on the ex parte application of an appealing health care worker, unless notice and opportunity to be heard are waived by the State Committee of Public Health. Stays erroneously granted on ex parte application shall be void. No bond or security shall be required in the event a stay is granted.

(d) The appeal shall be conducted by the court without a jury and shall be confined only to the administrative record and the following:

(1) Evidence which either party can demonstrate was erroneously denied entry into the record.

(2) Evidence which was not available to be offered into the record because it had not been discovered by the time of the administrative proceedings and could not have been discovered through reasonable diligence.

(3) Evidence not offered in the administrative proceedings because of excusable neglect or previous unavailability.

(4) Evidence excluded or not offered during the administrative proceedings because of fraud or misconduct in the proceedings not caused by the party seeking introduction of the evidence.

(e) The court may exclude from its record any evidence erroneously entered into the administrative record. Hearsay evidence rules may be disregarded in the discretion of the trial court when the interests of justice require.

(f) The final decision of the State Committee of Public Health shall be taken as prima facie just and reasonable and the court shall not substitute its judgment for that of the committee as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. The court may affirm the decision of the committee or remand the case for taking additional testimony or evidence or for further proceedings. The court may reverse or modify the decision or grant other appropriate relief from the final order, equitable or legal, including declaratory relief, if the court finds that any of the following substantial rights of the appealing health care worker have been prejudiced because the final decision:

(1) Violates constitutional or statutory provisions.

(2) Exceeds the authority granted by this article.

(3) Violates a pertinent rule adopted pursuant to this article.

(4) Was made upon unlawful procedure.

(5) Is affected by other error of law.

(6) Is clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record.

(7) Is arbitrary or capricious or characterized by an abuse of discretion or a clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.

(g) Unless the court affirms the final decision of the State Committee of Public Health, the court shall set forth in a written document, which shall become a part of the record, the reasons for its decision. The proceedings shall be recorded, and if there is an appeal, a transcript shall be prepared immediately.

(h) A confidential and anonymous appeal shall be available to either party aggrieved by the decision of the circuit court.

(i) All proceedings under this section shall be confidential and anonymous. In all pleadings or court documents, the infected health care worker shall be identified only by initials or a pseudonym. The Alabama Supreme Court shall issue any additional rules it deems necessary to assure that appeals under this section are handled in a confidential and anonymous manner.

(j) Notwithstanding any language to the contrary in the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act, this article shall take precedence and shall govern in the event there is a conflict between the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act and this article. In all other respects, appeals shall be governed by the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act.

(Acts 1993, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 93-846, p. 57, §5.)