We have successfully represented clients before ethics committees of associations and private boards.  While associations and private boards lack the power to discipline professional and occupational licenses, adverse ethics findings can seriously damage a reputation and a career, and, in some cases, lead later to license discipline.  Private entities typically have by-laws and procedures to safeguard member rights, but may not follow their own rules unless demanded to do so by our experienced administrative attorneys.

In one case, a client was accused by an industry association of unethical behavior and was threatened with having that behavior reported to the client’s employer.  After our intervention and advocacy, the association board reconsidered its position and dropped its plan to contact the employer.  Also, many of the earlier findings of misconduct were either reversed or softened, significantly limiting the damage.

In another case, a national healthcare professional association brought a complaint against a practitioner based upon allegations from the mother of a patient.  Senior Associate Attorney Lindsay Johnson developed a robust defense and rebutted the allegations.  After reviewing our response, the association dismissed the ethics allegations and thanked our attorney for the professional response.

The Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers brought a petition to revoke probation against a Ray & Bishop client who was on probation.  Having given the real estate appraiser a chance already by placing him on probation, when BREA believed that the appraiser had made mistakes on three appraisals and had failed to disclose other license discipline they were in no mood to give another second chance.  The Bureau demanded license revocation.

After a two-day hearing, the administrative law judge agreed with Ray & Bishop Senior Associate Attorney Lindsay Johnson that 75% of the case was unproven and threw three quarters of the case out.  The judge also slashed the cost bill BREA asked be paid, trimming over $20,000 in costs down to a little over $5,000.  As a penalty for what BREA could prove, probation was extended, and the license was saved.

The Medical Board of California brought an accusation against our doctor client for a 0.11% blood alcohol level drunk driving conviction.  The Medical Board cited the fact that the physician admitted to the police officer that he was on call in demanding harsh punishment.  In settlement negotiations, the Board’s minimum offer was a five year probation that would have been devastating to the physician’s career.

At hearing the judge agreed with attorney Fred Ray that the facts did not warrant probation.  The physician was driving home after having wine at a family gathering on a Saturday night, other physicians were available to take the hospital calls, and alcoholism and alcohol abuse were ruled out by an expert brought in by the firm.  The judge agreed that probation was an unduly harsh and unnecessary punishment for the physician in light of all the evidence and argument at hearing.    A panel of the Medical Board heard arguments after non-adoption of the hearing decision and agreed with our position, giving the physician only a public reprimand with no further penalties.

For help with a California Medical Board  accusation or disciplinary action, contact our experienced physician license defense attorneys for a consultation today.

A client of Ray and Bishop was denied a teaching credential due to criminal convictions related to academic dishonesty and theft that happened while he was in college.   We disagreed with the Committee’s recommendation because the convictions were over eight years old and no longer relevant to the person the applicant had become.  We therefore demanded a hearing before an administrative law judge.  The CTC refused to offer settlement, so the matter had to go to hearing.

At the administrative hearing, the administrative law judge agreed with our arguments that the applicant had shown rehabilitation and good character.  The administrative law judge therefore proposed that the teacher applicant be granted a clear credential.  The California Commissioner on Teacher Credentialing reviewed the decision and voted to adopt the proposed decision, granting the teacher a clear teaching credential.

In 2017, Ray & Bishop won stay orders in three Superior Court cases, stopping license revocations while our we fought appeals in Superior Court.  Two stays were granted in Board of Registered Nursing cases, permitting the nurses to work with clear licenses while we fought their appeals.  A third stay was granted in a Bureau of Real Estate case, enabling the broker to transact real estate with a clear license while we fought on in court.  The appeal process is a petition for writ of administrative mandamus.  A writ of administrative mandamus, or administrative mandate, can result in an agency decision being overturned.  The Superior Court can order the administrative agency, such as the Board of Registered Nursing, to reverse its decision and not revoke a license.

In most cases a Superior Court judge will only grant a stay order if the judge is convinced that the licensee will prevail on the merits of the appeal.  In other words, a stay order can be a strong early indication that the licensee will win on appeal.  Stay orders can be very difficult to win, because in almost all cases the Attorney General vigorously fights against a stay order being granted.  In all appeal proceedings, all state agencies are represented by the Attorney General from the California Department of Justice.  Petitions for writs of administrative mandamus are typically brought in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The California Medical Board received 8,679 complaints in fiscal year 2015-16 according to its latest comprehensive enforcement activity report.  During that same period, 299 accusations were filed by the Medical Board of California.  Medical license defense cases came from complaints overwhelmingly from the public, but also from complaints from license and professional groups and other governmental agencies.  Physician license defense cases in that period resulted in 120 cases of license probation, 129 cases where the physician’s license was revoked or surrendered, and 62 public reprimands.  Unfortunately, statistically most medical license defense cases in California ended with loss of a license or probation.  This illustrates the importance of an experienced and effective California physician license defense attorney.

Our attorneys that defend medical licenses are seeing a spike in the number of cases involving opioid abuse by patients.  As lawyers who defend medical licenses on a daily basis, were are seeing more and more medical licenses being disciplined due to the proactive approach taken by the Medical Board of California to investigate licenses of doctors who are targeted for improper prescribing practices based upon their CURES reports.  Attorneys who defend Medical Board licenses are also seeing cases that stem from the California Department of Public Health reporting of opioid-related deaths to the Medical Board, as well as information from pharmaceutical companies that may point to physician prescribing problems.  Accusations against California medical licenses are also being triggered by investigator review of websites and news articles to find complaints and adverse incidents involving physicians.  Our attorneys are keenly aware of these issues in medical license defense cases.

Opioid abuse-related cases are typically brought under Business and Professions Code sections 2234 (referring to gross negligence, repeated negligent acts and incompetence), Business and Professions Code section 2242, prescribing dangerous drugs without an appropriate prior examination and a medical indication, and Business and Professions Code section 2241, prescribing prescription drugs to an addict for a purpose other than addiction treatment.

As is apparent from the number of complaints versus the number of accusations filed, it can be possible to resolve a Medical Board physician license investigation and defend the physician’s license at the investigation stage with effective attorney representation.  However, to successfully defend a physician’s license, the medical license defense attorney must draw upon expert opinion, experience, legal research, and knowledge of remediation measures.  At Ray & Bishop, PLC, we do expect to defend an increasing number of medical license accusations due to opioid abuse cases this year and beyond.

Our licensing clients, most often traveling Registered Nurses or Department of Insurance agents who work for multistate companies, sometimes have licenses in more than one state.  They also could be on their way to California to continue their career in our great state.  Either way, licensees who hold licenses in different states have specific, unique problems that need to be addressed by a qualified Nurse Attorney or a Department of Insurance attorney.

When we ask clients about their licensing history, they’ll often tell us something like “Oh, I used to hold a license in Arizona, but I gave it up years ago,” or an advanced practitioner might say “I’m a nurse practitioner now, but I used to be a registered nurse and before that I was a licensed vocational nurse.”  What they don’t realize is that licenses, in most states, never go away.  When you are granted a license by a state agency, that agency has jurisdiction over you forever, regardless of when you got it or whether you renew it.  Keeping a license active allows you to keep using your license to practice, but an inactive or “lapsed” license doesn’t just disappear.  You can’t use it to practice, but the agency that issued it to you can discipline you anytime you violate its laws for the rest of your life—no matter where that violation occurs!

Why does this matter?  Because licensees in California who hold licenses in other states run the risk of “reciprocal discipline”.  Most licensing agencies have laws that define “unprofessional conduct” as “discipline by another licensing agency in any state or territory.”  So if California’s Department of Insurance disciplines a licensee, that licensee could be subject to discipline by California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences.  Or, if Arizona’s State Board of Nursing puts a nurse on probation, that nurse could be disciplined by the California Board of Registered Nursing.  Imagine a traveling nurse who holds licenses in Nevada, Washington, California, and Maine.  If that nurse is disciplined in Maine, Nevada, Washington, and California could all seek discipline, even if the licensee hasn’t practiced in California for 15, 20, or 30 years!  Additionally, most states consider it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensee to fail to report discipline from another agency, so the hypothetical nurse above would be responsible for informing four different state agencies in four different states about one disciplinary action.

The solution to the complex problem of reciprocal discipline is a qualified, experienced professional license defense attorney.  Make sure you have somebody who understands the way licensing agencies think in each state where you hold a license, including California.  Don’t let one potential issue turn into a major headache for your career.

As professional license defense attorneys, we try to negotiate a settlement offer for our clients in every case.  The more options we can provide to our clients, the better, and some clients want to avoid the cost and uncertainty of hearing no matter what.  Sometimes the agency digs in against the client and refuses to settle, but more often than not, we are able to convince the agency to offer settlement terms.  But what if the licensee doesn’t like the terms they’re being offered?  What if the terms involve a disciplinary record that will stick with the client for life?  What if the terms would preclude the client from working at their current job?

We often speak to licensed professionals who are on some form of board or agency probation, and they are unhappy with the terms and conditions.  Sometimes they were told that the settlement offer they received was “the best they could do,” and it would be a waste of time to go to hearing.  In fact, the government attorney will tell us that our clients should settle, and that we won’t do any better at an administrative proceeding.  Every case is different, but just because an agency attorney tells you that you won’t do better in court, it doesn’t mean they’re right.  The Board of Registered Nursing offered two of our clients probation just this year.  Neither client accepted, both went to hearing, and both had their Accusations dismissed by the ALJ and then those dismissals were accepted by the Board.  The Department of Social Services wanted to shut down two licensed day care facilities this year.  The Department refused to entertain settlement, instead demanding license revocation.  However, one, our client, was placed on probation after hearing, and the other client’s matter was dismissed entirely.  The Medical Board of California wanted to place our client’s license on probation, but after fighting for our client at hearing, our physician earned a public reproval instead, preserving the physician’s career as a well-earning, respected practitioner.

In all of these cases, a board or agency counsel insisted to the licensee that only one result was possible.  The truth is, with quality representation and a good case, we can achieve great results, sometimes even better than the best that the board is willing to offer.  In some of our cases, we recommend settlement, and it’s only through our intervention that the board is even willing to offer a settlement.  The only way to know for sure is to consult with an attorney who regularly appears at administrative hearings at the Office of Administrative Hearings.  Don’t be pressured into giving up a license or into taking a settlement offer without first talking to an experienced professional license defense attorney.

A licensed vocational nurse applicant was denied a license by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians after the applicant disclosed that he had another healthcare license that had been disciplined in the past. In the prior disciplinary case, the LVN license applicant had been placed on three years of probation for negligence, making incorrect entries on a patient record, a dishonest act and unprofessional conduct. The Board took the position that the new LVN license should also be put on probation just as the prior healthcare license had been.

We took the position that the outcome offered by the Board in settlement and advanced at hearing was unreasonable and would be extremely unfair to the license applicant. The applicant had successfully completed the prior probation, was appropriately remorseful, and had a serious and respectful demeanor at the proceeding.  After our presentation of all of the carefully prepared mitigation and rehabilitation evidence and legal arguments, the Administrative Law Judge granted a clear, unrestricted license, which was adopted by the Board. This result demonstrates the principle that the right law firm, which is not afraid to go to trial and push for a better result, can achieve a superior outcome.  This client was represented by Matthew Truong, Associate Attorney at Ray & Bishop, PLC.

A Board of Registered Nursing case against an RN who was accused of discrepancies in the handling of controlled substances was resolved by negotiation for an order of public reproval, also known as a public reprimand.  A public reproval involves no probation conditions and will drop off of the RN’s license record after three years.  The RN was not required to admit to the truth of the allegations in the accusation.

The Board initially accused the nurse of unprofessional conduct due to incorrect medication entries, as well as gross negligence for the mishandling of controlled substances.  The Board sought to place the RN on probation.  However, through advocacy with the Board and effectively explaining all of the circumstances surrounding the events, we persuaded the Board to drop its insistence on probation and settle for a public reproval.

Cases involving controlled substance errors and Pyxis machine data errors are very difficult to litigate because the reporting party (usually a hospital) may strongly suspect and infer drug diversion, including theft or abuse of drugs.  However, wasting, dosage and documentation errors can and do occur and can be explained and put into context by an effective attorney.  Ray & Bishop, PLC, represents and defends nurses in these types of very difficult cases that can have a severe impact on the careers of nurses.