Pearl v. BPD OF IDAHO STATE BD. OF MEDICINE, No. 26696.

CourtIdaho Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSCHROEDER, Justice.
Citation44 P.3d 1162,137 Idaho 107
PartiesJanice M. PEARL, M.D., Petitioner-Appellant, v. BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL DISCIPLINE OF the IDAHO STATE BOARD OF MEDICINE, Respondent.
Decision Date26 March 2002
Docket NumberNo. 26696.

44 P.3d 1162
137 Idaho 107

Janice M. PEARL, M.D., Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF PROFESSIONAL DISCIPLINE OF the IDAHO STATE BOARD OF MEDICINE, Respondent

No. 26696.

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, December 2001 Term.

March 26, 2002.


44 P.3d 1165
Moffatt, Thomas, Barrett, Rock & Fields, Chtd., Boise, for appellant. James C. De Glee argued

Uranga & Uranga, Boise, for respondent. Jean R. Uranga argued.

44 P.3d 1166
SCHROEDER, Justice

This is an appeal from the Board of Professional Discipline (BPD) of the State Board of Medicine (the Board), which issued a reprimand to Dr. Janice Pearl (Dr. Pearl) after finding that she failed to provide medical care that met the standard of health care provided by qualified physicians in same or similar communities. Dr. Pearl's case was considered before a hearing officer, whose conclusions were rejected by the Board. Dr. Pearl contends that she was entitled to a hearing before a panel of licensed physicians and that the evidence does not support the Board's findings.

I.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On August 7, 1995, Dr. Pearl began working at the Minidoka County Hospital. The Board filed an eight count disciplinary complaint against her on March 31, 1998, alleging violations of the Idaho Medical Practices Act in that Dr. Pearl "provided health care which fail[ed] to meet the standard of health care provided by other qualified physicians in the same or similar communities." An evidentiary hearing was conducted by an attorney-hearing officer on June 29, 30, July 1 and 24, 1998. The hearing officer found no violations of the standard of care in counts one, four, five, six, and eight and recommended that those counts be dismissed. With respect to counts two, three, and seven, the hearing officer found minor violations of the standard of care and recommended a formal letter of caution to Dr. Pearl.

Counsel for the Board disagreed with the hearing officer's recommended order and submitted a brief and exceptions to the recommended order. In addition to disagreeing with the hearing officer's findings, counsel alleged that the hearing officer had inappropriately consulted an outside physician regarding count one of the complaint.

The Board rejected all but one of the hearing officer's recommendations, finding violations of the standard of care in seven of the eight counts alleged. The Board issued a reprimand to Dr. Pearl, requiring that Dr. Pearl provide a physician monitor at each location she practiced and provide the Board with the names and telephone numbers of supervisors, employees, coworkers, and staff for the Board to contact.

Dr. Pearl appealed the Board's decision to the district court, arguing that she was entitled to a hearing before a panel of licensed physicians rather than to a hearing officer, and that the record did not support the Board's conclusions. While that appeal was pending, the Idaho Legislature revised I.C. § 54-1806. This revision dissolved the Board of Professional Discipline and created a Committee on Professional Discipline. The revised statute specifically allows hearing officers to "take evidence, conduct hearings and make recommended findings and conclusions."

The district court held that Pearl was not entitled to a hearing before a panel of licensed physicians but remanded four of the eight counts alleged in the complaint back to the Board. This appeal followed.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Paul v. Board of Professional Discipline, 134 Idaho 838, 11 P.3d 34 (2000), sets forth the applicable standards of review:

[T]he standard of review for an appeal to the Court is found in I.C. § 67-5279. The court reviews the agency record independently of the district court's decision. First Interstate Bank of Idaho, N.A., v. West, 107 Idaho 851, 852-53, 693 P.2d 1053, 1054-55 (1984). The Court defers to the agency's findings of fact unless those findings are clearly erroneous. Ferguson v. Board of County Comm'rs for Ada County, 110 Idaho 785, 788, 718 P.2d 1223, 1226 (1986). The Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of evidence presented in the record. I.C. § 67 5279(1); Woodfield v. Board of Professional Discipline, 127 Idaho 738, 744, 905 P.2d 1047, 1053 (Ct.App. 1995).
The agency's findings must be affirmed unless the findings are not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a
44 P.3d 1167
whole or the findings are arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion. I.C. § 67-5279(3)(d)(e). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of proof, but less than a preponderance. Boley v. State, Industrial Special Indem. Fund, 130 Idaho 278, 280, 939 P.2d 854, 856 (1997). It is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. Id.
Where the agency's findings disagree with those of the hearing panel, this Court will scrutinize the agency's findings more critically. Woodfield v. Board of Professional Discipline, 127 Idaho 738, 746, 905 P.2d 1047, 1053 (Ct.App.1995). As the Court of Appeals noted in Woodfield, there is authority for courts to impose on the agency an obligation of reasoned decision making that includes a duty to explain why the agency differed from the administrative law judge. Woodfield, 127 Idaho at 746, 747 n. 3, 905 P.2d at 1053 n. 3.

III.

THE MEDICAL PRACTICES ACT DID NOT REQUIRE THAT DR. PEARL'S DISCIPLINARY HEARING BE BEFORE A PANEL OF LICENSED PHYSICIANS

It has been standard practice in disciplinary proceedings brought by the Board to use hearing officers who conduct evidentiary hearings and make recommendations. Appellate decisions have been rendered in Idaho that arose from hearings before non-physician hearing officers. See, e.g., Krueger v. Board of Professional Discipline, 122 Idaho 577, 836 P.2d 523 (1992); Woodfield v. Board of Professional Discipline, 127 Idaho 738, 905 P.2d 1047 (Ct.App.1995). However, the issue raised by Dr. Pearl was not raised in those previous decisions.

Before its revision, I.C. § 54-1806A authorized the Board of Medicine to create a Board of Professional Discipline and gave the Board of Professional Discipline the "role and authority in the enforcement and supervision of professional disciplinary enforcement . . ."

I.C. § 54-1806A(6)(d) empowered the BPD to form disciplinary hearing committees. This statute stated, in relevant part:

(6) Additional Powers of the Board of Professional Discipline. In addition to its other powers, the board of professional discipline shall be empowered and authorized:
[ . . . ]
(d) To appoint hearing committees to take evidence, conduct hearings and make recommended findings and conclusions to it in any matter or proceeding assigned to the committee, which hearings shall be of such number and size as the disciplinary board directs composed of licensed physicians resident and licensed to practice medicine and surgery in Idaho . . . .

I.C. § 54-1806A(6)(d)(1990).

Dr. Pearl maintains that the BPD violated this statute by appointing a non-physician hearing officer rather than a panel of physicians, arguing that the statute made the appointment of a panel of physicians mandatory. This position is incorrect.

The decision to appoint a committee of physicians is discretionary with the BPD. The statute specifically states that this is an "additional" power of the BPD and that the BPD "shall be empowered and authorized" to create such a panel. The statute clearly does not require the BPD to create a panel. Other statutory provisions empower the BPD to appoint hearing officers. I.C. § 54-1806(1) states that the BPD has the power to "[h]ire or appoint . . . independent hearing examiners." I.C. § 54-1806(4) provides that the Board of Medicine, the Board of Professional Discipline, or its hearing officer may "administer oaths, take witness and the production of such books, records, and papers as it may desire . . ." Further, I.C. § 54-1806(2) gives the Board power to adopt rules for the administration of the chapter. The Board has adopted a rule that allows a hearing before a "Hearing Officer Appointed by the Board." IDAPA 22.01.07.044.01.

Dr. Pearl argues that there is a conflict between statutes and that the more specific statute should control. See, e.g., Paterson v. State, 128 Idaho 494, 915 P.2d 724

44 P.3d 1168
(1996). She maintains that I.C. § 54-1806A(6)(d) is a more specific statute because it empowers a panel to conduct hearings. However, the statutes do not conflict. I.C. § 54-1806A(6)(d) is a discretionary statute. The Act allows for both a panel and for hearing officers

An agency's interpretation of its statutes is entitled to deference. Simplot v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, 120 Idaho 849, 820 P.2d 1206 (1991). This case involves the interpretation of the Medical Practices Act by the State Board of Medicine. The four-prong test of Simplot is: (1) the court must determine whether the agency has been entrusted with the responsibility to administer the statute at issue, (2) the agency's statutory construction must be reasonable, (3) the court must determine that the statutory language at issue does not treat the precise issue, and (4) a court must ask whether any of the rationales underlying the rule of deference are present. Id. If this test is met, the court must give "considerable weight" to the agency's interpretation. Id.

It is clear that the Board may "establish pursuant to the administrative procedure act rules and regulations for the administration of this chapter." I.C. § 54-1806(2). The Board may therefore administer this act.

Second, the agency's interpretation must be reasonable. It is clear that the Medical Practices Act allows hearing officers to conduct evidentiary hearings. I.C. § 54-1806(4). The Medical Practices Act does not specifically empower a hearing officer to make recommended orders, but also does not restrict a hearing officer's power to do so. A hearing officer has broad power to gather and hear evidence, and it is not unreasonable to conclude that...

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32 practice notes
  • State v. Gillespie, Nos. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • August 5, 2014
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113–14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168–69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • State v. Gillespie, s. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113–14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168–69 (2002) ; State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999) ; Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho......
  • State v. Gillespie, Docket No. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113-14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168-69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • State v. Gillespie, Docket No. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113-14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168-69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • State v. Gillespie, Nos. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • August 5, 2014
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113–14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168–69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • State v. Gillespie, s. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113–14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168–69 (2002) ; State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999) ; Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho......
  • State v. Gillespie, Docket No. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113-14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168-69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • State v. Gillespie, Docket No. 39426
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Idaho
    • December 30, 2013
    ...amendments to clarify or strengthen the existing provisions of a statute. Pearl v. Bd. of Prof'l Discipline of Idaho State Bd. of Med., 137 Idaho 107, 113-14, 44 P.3d 1162, 1168-69 (2002); State v. Barnes, 133 Idaho 378, 384, 987 P.2d 290, 296 (1999); Stonecipher v. Stonecipher, 131 Idaho 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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