Woods v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Admin.

Decision Date26 September 2017
Docket NumberNo. 1:16–cv–01289–STA–egb,1:16–cv–01289–STA–egb
Citation283 F.Supp.3d 649
Parties John WOODS, M.D., and, Tom McDonald, M.D., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION, Jeff Sessions, United States Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee

Matthew Robert Courtner, Milton Dale Conder, Jr., Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell, PLC, Jackson, TN, for Petitioners.

James Matthew Waldrop, Samuel Keenan Carter, US Attorney's Office, Memphis, TN, for Respondents.



In this action for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment, Petitioners John Woods, M.D., and Tom McDonald, M.D., seek to prevent Respondents from enforcing 21 C.F.R. § 1301.76(a) against them with respect to their current or future employment as physicians with access to controlled substances. Petitioners decry what they claim to be Respondents' arbitrary enforcement. But in doing so, Petitioners force a confrontation with a fundamental principle of our Constitution's separation of powers—this Court's very authority to resolve the case before it. Unlike the Supreme Court, the jurisdiction of the inferior federal courts consists solely of that which Congress grants. And of that which Congress gives, Congress may take away. Respondents direct the Court to a provision of the Controlled Substances Act that they believe strips the Court of jurisdiction over this action. The Court agrees.

Before the Court are the parties' motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 33 & 42–1). The parties have thoroughly briefed the issues in responses (ECF Nos. 42 & 46), replies (ECF Nos. 47 & 48), and even in a separate motion (ECF Nos. 38 & 45), making the instant Motions ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth below, Respondents' Cross Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED . This action is hereby DISMISSED for want of jurisdiction but without prejudice. Accordingly, all pending motions are DENIED as moot.2

A. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed by the parties. See Woods and McDonald's Statement of Material Facts, Feb. 15, 2017, ECF No. 34; Resp'ts' Resp. to Pet'rs' Statement of Material Facts, Mar. 15, 2017, ECF No. 42–2. Petitioners are both licensed physicians employed by the Henderson County Community Hospital ("HCCH") in Lexington, Tennessee. In order to prescribe and handle controlled substances, a physician must obtain a registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). Both Petitioners voluntarily surrendered their DEA registrations while undergoing inpatient treatment for addiction and substance abuse—Woods in 2011 and McDonald at some point before 2002. Since 2013 and 2002 respectively, however, Woods and McDonald have had full prescribing authority. During the approximately 14 years that McDonald has had such authority, he has reapplied for and been granted DEA registration five times.

In their Second Amended Complaint, Petitioners allege the following facts that Respondents lack sufficient information to either admit or deny. See Second Am. Compl., Dec. 2, 2016, ECF No. 22; Answer, Feb. 24, 2017, ECF No. 36. Woods and McDonald are the only two hospitalists at HCCH. McDonald has been working at HCCH since 2002, though he was a staff doctor for the vast majority of that time. Woods has been working at HCCH as a hospitalist since April 2015.

Since his involvement with the DEA began, Woods has attempted to keep the DEA informed of his employment. Prior to beginning his work at HCCH, Woods informed the DEA that he would be working at HCCH. Also before his employment began at HCCH, Woods spoke with a DEA agent about his recordkeeping responsibilities at HCCH in light of his agreement with the DEA. The DEA agent confirmed that Woods did not have to submit prescriptions written for inpatient treatment. Thus, the DEA knew that Woods would be working at HCCH.

On November 10, 2016, the DEA was on-site at HCCH, and an agent informed Dr. Woods that he believed that, pursuant to 21 C.F.R. § 1301.76(a), Woods must have a waiver from the DEA in order to work at HCCH. The agent later confirmed this belief, called Woods, and told him that HCCH must have a waiver from the DEA in order for Woods to work at HCCH. The agent told Woods that he could not work at HCCH while the waiver was applied for and processed. Woods was suddenly and unexpectedly out of work. Before the agent's conversations with Woods on that day, the DEA had never told Woods that he needed a waiver to work at HCCH. The DEA agent also called HCCH that day and told HCCH that it must have a waiver for Woods to work at HCCH and Woods could not work until the DEA granted a waiver. The DEA agent further informed HCCH that it must apply for a waiver for any other physician who had surrendered his or her DEA registration for cause. The agent instructed HCCH that any such physician could not work until the DEA granted a waiver. HCCH identified McDonald as the only other physician working at HCCH that met this criterion. HCCH then informed both Woods and McDonald that they could not work again until the DEA granted a waiver. This was also the first time that McDonald had heard of the waiver requirement.

The DEA granted HCCH waivers for both Woods and McDonald on January 18, 2017. Decl. of Kerry R. Hamilton, at 1, Apr. 12, 2017, ECF No. 48–2.

B. Procedural History

Petitioners filed their initial Complaint requesting a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a preliminary injunction (ECF No. 1) on November 10, 2016, and an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 2) the following day. The Court issued a TRO on November 15, 2016, preventing Respondents from enforcing 21 C.F.R. § 1301.76(a) against Petitioners and thereby precluding them from performing their duties as physician-hospitalists at the HCCH. Order Adopting R & R and Granting Pls.' Motion for TRO Enjoining the U.S. D.O.J. and U.S. D.E.A. from Enforcing 21 C.F.R. § 1301.76(a) Against John Woods, M.D., and Tom McDonald, M.D., Nov. 15, 2016, ECF No. 13. On December 6, 2016, the Court held a hearing regarding Petitioners' request for a preliminary injunction. Min. Entry, Dec. 16, 2016, ECF No. 30; see Motion for Prelim. Inj., Nov. 23, 2016, ECF No. 18. At the hearing, Respondents consented to entry of a preliminary injunction allowing the uninterrupted work of Petitioners during the litigation of this case. Min. Entry, ECF No. 30. In the order that followed, the Court found that all four factors used in analyzing a preliminary injunction issue swung in Petitioners' favor, including likelihood of success on the merits. Prelim. Inj., Dec. 12, 2016, ECF No. 32. Accordingly, the Court issued an injunction. Order Granting Motion for Prelim. Inj., Dec. 6, 2016, ECF No. 31; Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 32.

As of the filing of the Second Amended Complaint on December 2, 2016, Petitioners request a declaratory judgment holding that enforcement of 21 C.F.R. § 1301.76(a) against them is barred for three reasons: (1) enforcement would violate the doctrine of laches, (2) enforcement would be arbitrary and capricious under section 706(2)(A) of the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), and (3) enforcement would constitute an impermissible, retroactive application of Respondents' interpretation of section 1301.76(a). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202. Petitioners also request a permanent injunction prohibiting Respondents from enforcing section § 1301.76(a) against them at HCCH or any other future employment. Second Am. Compl., at 16, ECF No. 22. Petitioners' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 33) makes the above arguments and others, while Respondents' joint Response and Cross–Motion (ECF No. 42) raises the issues of subject-matter jurisdiction, standing, and sovereign immunity, in addition to responding to Petitioners' arguments.


Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review all the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and it "may not make credibility determinations [ ]or weigh the evidence." Laster v. City of Kalamazoo , 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th Cir. 2014). When the motion is supported by documentary proof such as depositions and affidavits, the nonmoving party may not rest on his pleadings but, rather, must present some "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ; Eastham v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C. , 754 F.3d 356, 360 (6th Cir. 2014). These facts must be more than a scintilla of evidence and must meet the standard of whether a reasonable juror could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the nonmoving party is entitled to a verdict in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "The standards ... for summary judgment do not change when, as here, ‘both parties seek to resolve [the] case through the vehicle of cross-motions for summary judgment.’ " Craig v. Bridges Bros. Trucking LLC , 823 F.3d 382, 387 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Taft Broad. Co. v. United States , 929 F.2d 240, 248 (6th Cir. 1991) ).

A. Statements of Undisputed Material Facts

Before beginning its analysis, the Court finds it necessary to address a...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT