Summary Medical License Suspensions: High Stakes - Low Due Process Requirements
In extreme circumstances, the boards and committees regulating licensed medical and healthcare professionals may suspend a practitioner’s license before an administrative complaint is filed or a hearing on an administrative complaint is held. This form of suspension is known as summary suspension. In order for a board to summarily suspend a license, the board must find that the practitioner “represents a clear and immediate danger to the public health and safety if the practitioner is allowed to continue to practice.”
Summary suspensions, frequently called “emergency suspensions,” are prosecuted by the Office of the Indiana Attorney General (“OAG”) when an OAG or law enforcement investigation determines that a practitioner is currently unsafe to practice but a final adjudication on the practitioner’s license cannot be had either because: (1) investigation into the full licensure charges is ongoing; or (2) an administrative complaint has been filed but is not set for hearing at the next possible hearing date.
A Petition for Summary Suspension initiates the summary suspension proceeding and provides the first notice to the practitioner. Although a Petition for Summary Suspension can be filed for any violation endangering the public, summary suspensions are most commonly filed in relation to allegations of drug diversion, patient abuse, sexual misconduct, or failure to successfully complete professional substance abuse monitoring. When a Petition for Summary Suspension is filed with the board regulating the practitioner’s license, a hearing on the Petition will be set at the next available hearing date.
A summary suspension order immediately restricts a practitioner’s ability to practice within the State of Indiana.  Despite the severity of this remedy, the due process requirements regarding notification to the practitioner are surprisingly limited. The OAG is only required to make a “reasonable attempt” to notify the practitioner that a summary suspension hearing will take place and of the allegation(s) against the practitioner.  A “reasonable attempt” to contact the practitioner is made if the OAG “attempts to reach the practitioner by telephone or facsimile at the last telephone number of the practitioner on file with the board.” Thus, an unanswered fax or telephone call to the practitioner on the day of the hearing satisfies the notice requirements for a summary suspension. Further, “a court may not stay or vacate a summary suspension of a practitioner’s license for the sole reason that the practitioner was not notified.” Moreover, due to the emergency nature of the action, no continuances are granted once the summary suspension hearing is set. “[T]he practitioner may not petition the board for a delay of the summary suspension proceedings.”
A summary suspension order must contain a brief statement setting forth the facts justifying the entry of the order. The order will remain in effect for ninety days, unless the board provides otherwise in the order. The order may be renewed for successive ninety-day periods while the alleged emergency continues to exist. Each renewal is heard by the board regulating the practitioner’s license at an additional summary suspension hearing. A summary suspension can be continued indefinitely while the OAG, or other law enforcement agency, works to develop its case against the practitioner.
What should you do to protect your license given the severity and immediacy of a summary suspension proceeding?
1. Keep your contact information current with Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (“IPLA”).
- It is imperative that you maintain active and correct contact information with the IPLA because this is how the OAG will attempt to notify you of an upcoming summary suspension proceeding. Remember, a summary suspension proceeding will not be postponed and a summary suspension will not be lifted even if the only notice of the proceeding was sent to your former address or phone number.
2. Seek legal counsel to file your written response in opposition to Petition for Summary Suspension or to represent you at hearing.
- You are permitted to “provide a written or an oral statement to the board on [your] behalf before the board issues an order for summary suspension.” Due to the severity of the allegations contained within a Petition for Summary Suspension and the drastic potential outcome, it is advisable to seek legal counsel to assist you with your response. An order granting summary suspension will remain posted and searchable on the IPLA licensing litigation website in perpetuity. Any person searching for you on the internet will be able to access the order that sets forth the facts justifying your summary suspension.
3. Seek legal counsel to request early dismissal of an unnecessary summary suspension order.
- If an order is entered, either because you did not receive actual notice, or because you did not tender an oral or written response to the Petition, your legal counsel may request an early dismissal of the order. You would otherwise have to wait ninety days to challenge the order at a summary suspension renewal hearing.
- Similarly, if the allegations in the Petition were true and a summary suspension order was entered, but the emergency has since been remedied, your legal counsel may request early dismissal of the summary suspension order.
- Summary suspensions are frequently renewed several times. A new hearing is generally held for each renewal. Even if you have not attacked the order before a renewal hearing, your legal counsel may oppose the renewal hearing.
 Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (a).
 Ind. Code § 4-21.5-4 et. seq.
 Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (b).
 Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (c) (1).
 Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (c) (2).
 Ind. Code § 4-21.5-4-5 (a); Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (a).
 Ind. Code § 4-21.5-4-5 (b).
 Ind. Code § 25-1-9-10 (b).
By: Drake T. Land, a former Riley Bennett Egloff attorney.
© Riley Bennett Egloff LLP
Disclaimer: Article is made available for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about any matters in this article, please contact Riley Bennett Egloff.
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Posted April 16, 2018.