A phenomenon we observe in our law firm every day is the Domino Effect of license discipline.  Simply put, discipline against one’s license, a license denial, or a criminal conviction, can in turn result in discipline against out of state licenses, other agency licenses, and affect employment, memberships, clearances and registrations.  The clearest illustration of this effect is concerning a physician.

Let’s say that a physician does his residency in the state of Florida, where he gets his license, then moves back to California, where he applies for a license.  However, after he got the Florida license, but before the California application, he was convicted of drug possession.  As a result of the conviction, California denies his license application.  That license denial becomes a public record.  Florida becomes aware of the license denial in California, leading Florida to discovery of the drug conviction, and then Florida takes away the physician’s license as well.  The physician appeals the California license denial, but in the process, that appeal opens a case that results in a press release or email blast concerning the physician.  If the physician wins the appeal but obtains, for example, a probationary license, his license record will show, indefinitely, the cloud over his license by showing that the license was granted on probation and even may offer a link to the disciplinary documents.  A license denial followed by probation will then likely have to be disclosed whenever the physician applies for other state licenses, for acceptance to a health insurance plan, for membership in referral services, for hospital privileges, and the list goes on.

Predicting the Domino Effect of license discipline can be less like predicting the fall of dominoes and more like predicting chess moves.  It is very difficult to predict how some entities – such as other states’ licensing boards or insurance companies – will react to negative licensing information.  The one overriding lesson of the Domino Effect is that a clean disciplinary record is a highly valuable possession.  One should, as a general rule, secure as many desired licenses, memberships or privileges before one is foreseeably tainted by a criminal conviction, license discipline or another reportable event.  In most cases, an indvidual enjoys due process rights with an existing license that may not be present when a license application has been turned down.

The worst part of the Domino Effect is the pernicioius manner in which negative public records available over the internet can damage one’s career and reputation.  Most licensing agencies will make derogatory information available on a license record, in a website listing of disciplinary actions and even in an agency newsletter.  Thusfar licensing agencies see it as their duty to publicize one’s license discipline on the websites and in their publications.  It remains to be seen if the law will curb these practices by requiring that old or irrelevant disciplinary cases be stricken from a licensing agency’s website.