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Winning Your Case and Still Being Sanctioned

March 21, 2022

Question: I heard from a colleague who recently went through a licensing case. She described how the state filed a complaint against her saying she was negligent and incompetent. She had to pay for an expert witness and go through a trial run by an administrative judge. The judge decided that there was no negligence or incompetence. However, the Board of Dentistry put her on probation, fined her, and required 60 hours of continuing education. How can this be when the judge decided in her favor?

Answer: Ultimately, this is the disciplinary subcommittee of the Board of Dentistry that has the final say on whether a dentist will be sanctioned and, if so, what that sanction will be. This authority is subject to review only by the Court of Appeals.

Here’s how the process works: A licensing case begins with an administrative complaint being filed and served on a dentist by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Following the dentist’s receipt of the administrative complaint there is typically a meeting called a compliance conference. At the compliance conference are the dentist, his or her attorney, a representative of the Board of Dentistry who is not on the DSC and, in some cases, an assistant attorney general (who is representing the Board of Dentistry/LARA). The purpose of a compliance conference is to meet informally to discuss the case and attempt to negotiate a resolution. If successful, that resolution is documented in a consent order and stipulation.

If the compliance conference does not result in a resolution, an administrative hearing is scheduled. An administrative law judge presides over this hearing. Witnesses can be heard, and other evidence may be presented. As you describe, this is much like a trial. One significant difference, however, is that at the conclusion of the hearing the administrative law judge does not decide the case. Instead, the administrative law judge issues “recommended Findings of Fact and conclusions of Law,” which are provided to the DSC.

Read the complete Q&A in the Journal of the Michigan Dental Association on page 22.

About the author:

Daniel J. Schulte answer questions about health care lawDaniel J. Schulte has more than 25 years of experience helping clients solve tough problems and capitalize on opportunities that require a blend of business and legal expertise. His practice focuses on addressing the legal, business, licensing, and regulatory challenges of health care professionals, organizations, and facilities. Dan understands how legal issues impact business objectives and, as a result, offers his clients practical, results-oriented advice. He is a Certified Public Accountant, former managing partner and current executive committee member of the firm. Dan also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Health Care Practice Group.

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