Judges Cannot Revoke Doctors’ Licenses Without Due Process, San Francisco Appeals Court Rules
Physicians and other professional license-holders who are charged with crimes may keep their licenses unless the state grants them a hearing to defend their rights or proves that they pose "an immediate risk to the public," a three-member panel of the Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled unanimously Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The ruling was made in the case of a Napa psychiatrist who has been charged with sexually exploiting a former patient. Last May, a judge -- without advance notice or a hearing -- barred the psychiatrist from practicing medicine as a condition of remaining free on bail. The appellate court later restored the psychiatrist's license, effective in November, allowing him to resume his practice.
In its ruling Wednesday, the appellate court panel said that the judge had violated the psychiatrist's rights by barring him from practicing medicine without advance notice or a hearing.
In the ruling, Justice Joanne Parrilli wrote, "Some measure of due process must be given to a professional license-holder before license suspension," adding, "At a minimum, the suspension must be based on evidence showing an immediate risk to the public." She wrote that if the licensing agency has evidence showing immediate public danger, a professional's license could be suspended temporarily, but a hearing must be held soon afterward.
The psychiatrist's attorney said the ruling will stop the state attorney general from seeking immediate suspensions of licensed professionals after criminal charges are filed without holding a hearing or proving public danger.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), said the attorney general's office is pleased that the court will allow license suspensions under some circumstances. "The primary concern of the attorney general and the Medical Board is public safety," he said (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).