The Minnesota Court of Appeals (“Court”) affirmed an order by Minnesota Board of Medical Practice (“Board”) reprimanding a physician for not cooperating with the Board in a decision issued on December 20, 2021. In the Matter of the Medical License of Michael D. Castro, D.O. No. A21-0232 (Minn. Ct. App. 2021). The decision shows the high bar that licensees face when trying to appeal a Board decision and shows the importance of maintaining a current mailing address with the Board.
The case started when the Board received a patient complaint about Dr. Castro and sent him a letter requesting the patient’s medical records and other information. Dr. Castro failed to respond to three written requests for information and failed to attend a conference to discuss the complaint. The Board then received a second patient complaint and sent him a letter requesting information about that patient. Dr. Castro did not respond. The Board then sent a letter to the same address regrading an audit of his continuing-medical-education requirements. Dr. Castro responded to that letter. The Board then sent notice of a second conference to the same address and Dr. Castro attended the conference. The Board presumably recommended a reprimand for failure to cooperate but apparently Dr. Castro did not agree, and the matter went before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
The ALJ held a hearing and determined that Dr. Castro failed to cooperate with the Board. The Board adopted the ALJ’s conclusion and ordered that Dr. Castro be reprimanded. Dr. Castro then appealed the determination to the Court of Appeals.
Court of Appeals
Dr. Castro argued that the Board’s decision was based on an error of law because he claimed he never received actual notice and therefore his reply did not amount to failure to cooperate. The Court rejected his argument. Dr. Castro also argued that the Board failed to present substantial evidence that he received proper notice. The Court disagreed. Finally, Dr. Castro claimed that the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, but that argument did not succeed either.
In its analysis, the Court noted that an administrative agency’s decision is presumed correct. The Court of Appeals reviews a decision by the Board pursuant to the Minnesota Administrative Procedure Act (“MAPA”). The Court noted that “[b]oards and commissions like the Board of Medical [Practice] are appointed because of their special expertise regarding the standards of their own professions. Therefore when a professional person must be disciplined for breaching these standards, the nature and duration of the discipline is best determined by his or her fellow professionals, who are in a superior position to evaluate the breaches of trust and unprofessional conduct.”
At the end of the day, the Court relied on the fact that the Board followed its standard procedure for notifying licensees, that Dr. Castro was required to maintain a current address with the Board, and that he apparently did receive at least some communications at that address. Unless it is based on unusual circumstances the Court of Appeals will often defer to the Board in its decisions and this appeal was likely not even a close call.
Physicians licensed in the State of Minnesota should be mindful to update their mailing address if it changes and not ignore correspondence from the Board of Medical Practice.
About the Author
V. John Ella is a Minnesota professional licensing and employment law attorney. He served as a public member of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice from 2010 to 2018. He regularly represents doctors, nurses and other medical professionals with licensing and board matters. He also regularly represents clients at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He can be reached at 6112.455.6237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.