Holding off a Professional License Revocation or Suspension During Appeal
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
If you are a physician, dentist, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, massage therapist or other licensed health professional whose license has been recently revoked or suspended, there may still be hope. As a matter of course, you would be required to immediately stop practicing or risk being prosecuted for unlicensed practice, which is a felony. Although this blog deals with Florida law, similar relief may be available in other states, too.
One of the hardest things about having a license suspended or revoked is that it becomes effective immediately, whether there was a mistake, the action taken was erroneous or because of other reasons which may support an appeal. This cuts off the health professional’s sole source of income, which may also prevent you from having enough to pay for an appeal. If you have a thriving practice, this will usually destroy any value which your business has. Without income, paying your bills will be a challenge, much less paying the legal expenses to appeal or further fight the action that was taken.
Even if you appeal the decision and win the appeal, you will be out of practice for many months, often more than a year, before your license is reinstated. You still have all the lost income and business, and you never get this time and money back.
Fortunately, Florida law provides a remedy for temporary relief from the adverse decision, so that you may retain your license and practice your profession pending appeal of your case. This legal process is called a “writ of supersedeas.”
What is Supersedeas Relief?
Supersedeas relief is a form of relief granted by a reviewing court (court of appeal) that suspends the enforcement of the decision of the lower court (or agency) while the underlying issues are decided on appeal. What this means is that you can have the action to revoke or suspend your license put on hold while you appeal the decision of the Department of Health (DOH), in the case of a health care professional. The same applies to other professional licenses issued by other state agencies in Florida, as well.
Supersedeas relief is authorized in two separate locations in Florida law: Section 120.68(3), Florida Statutes, and Rule 9.190(e)(2)(C), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Both of these provisions state that a reviewing court can grant a stay of enforcement of the revocation or suspension of a license pending review.
This relief is not automatic, however. You must request it. Additionally, both legal authorities specifically prevent supersedeas from being granted if the licensee poses a probable threat to the health, safety or welfare of the state. In most cases, this is not applicable. Regardless, it is the burden of the agency which has the order is being reviewed to prove that there is a danger to the public.
Additionally, the Appellate Rule permits you to ask for expedited review. (Which of course is recommended because you want to be back to work as quickly as possible, right?) This means that the agency only has ten (10) days to file its opposition and the appellate court will make an expedited decision on this. This shortened time period may make it difficult for an overworked government attorney to file on time or to produce quality opposition.
Steps to Seeking Supersedeas Relief.
Following are the steps which an experienced health lawyer or appellate lawyer would take to obtain such relief:
1. File an appeal of the Final Order revoking or suspending your license with the appropriate agency and a copy to the appellate court. Be sure to follow all appellate rules, local court rules and instructions.
2. File a Petition for Expedited Supersedeas Relief with the appellate court at the same time.
3. If you receive a favorable ruling from the court, deliver that order to the licensing agency (in this case, the DOH) and request that your license be reinstated immediately.
We do not recommend that you attempt to represent yourself on such matters. Appeals are complex and require an intimate knowledge of the law and appellate procedures. You should engage the services of an experienced health lawyer at the earliest possible opportunity.
It is important to note that this form of relief will not make the underlying disciplinary action disappear. Your return to practice will only be temporary, unless you win the appeal. You will still have to show the licensing agency did something contrary to law when it imposed the discipline in order for the appellate court to overturn the decision. This is not often an easy task. Furthermore, the law only permits a thirty (30) day window in which to appeal the agency’s decision, after which your rights are lost and you are very likely stuck with the decision.
Appeals Are Very Technical and Require a Thorough, Specialized Knowledge of the Law.
What few people understand is that appeals are very technical and have complex, procedural rules that you must follow. Additionally, appeals are decided based on errors made in applying the law in the case, not based on a dispute about the facts of the case. An appeal of an agency final order is not the place to argue about the facts of your case or to try to prove different facts. This is another reason that you should have an experienced health law attorney represent you and have a full, formal administrative hearing on the case. Given the fact that most appeals will not be successful (the appellate courts err to the side of assuming the lower court or agency made the correct decision), you need to aggressively litigate and defend the action against you to try to win at the hearing or agency level. To prevail on an appeal, the attorney must have a detailed knowledge of the correct, relevant court cases and must be able to argue these in the proper form in legal briefs.
An appeal is all about the laws that apply to your factual situation and the court cases that have interpreted those laws. Unless the agency made a legal error and violated the law, you won’t win. There are many other procedural steps you must follow in an appeal that only a good appellate attorney will know. To attempt to do this yourself is not advisable.
Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.
If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
Key Words: revocation of medical license, suspension of medical license, supersedeas relief, revocation of dental license, revocation of nursing license, revocation of pharmacist license, revocation of health facility license, adverse agency action, health professional defense attorney, professional license defense lawyer, health care appellate attorney, appeals from adverse agency action, appeal from professional license discipline, appeal from final order, abating final order, suspending application of final order, Department of Health (DOH) defense attorney, license suspension attorney, legal representation on license revocation, license revocation defense counsel, health care appeals defense attorney
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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