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Isaacs v. Trustees of Dartmouth College

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 14, 2017

Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs
v.
Trustees of Dartmouth College, NH Board of Medicine, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center Opinion No. 2017 DNH 175

          Pierre A. Chabot, Esq., Keith A. Mathews, Esq., William D. Pandolph, Esq., John F. Skinner, III, Esq., Seth Michael Zoracki, Esq.

          ORDER

          LANDYA MCCAFFERTY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Asserting claims that arise from a disciplinary action taken against him by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine (“Board”), Dr. Jeffrey Isaacs has sued the Board, the Trustees of Dartmouth College (“Trustees”), and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (“DHMC”).[1] Before the court is plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief. The Board objects. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Isaacs attended the Keck School of Medicine (“Keck”) at the University of Southern California (“USC”) until “he was suspended and ultimately dismissed for harassing a classmate.” Isaacs v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Med. Ctr., No. 12-CV-040-LM, 2014 WL 1572559, at *2 (D.N.H. Apr. 18, 2014). Isaacs then sued USC, and his suit resulted in two settlement agreements, one with USC's deans and one with U.S.C. itself.

         After he left USC, Isaacs attended the American University of the Caribbean, Netherlands Antilles, which awarded him an M.D. degree. Thereafter, he began a residency in general surgery at the University of Arizona (“UA”), but he resigned after approximately three weeks.

         Next, Dr. Isaacs applied for a residency at DHMC through the Electronic Residency Application Service (“ERAS”). “In [his ERAS] application, he omitted both his attendance at U.S.C. and his aborted residency at UA.” Id. Based upon his ERAS application, Dr. Isaacs was accepted into the DHMC residency program in psychiatry. Dr. Isaacs also completed an application for, and ultimately obtained, a residency training license from the Board. Dr. Isaacs began his DHMC residency in June 2011. He was dismissed from the program in March 2012.

         After DHMC dismissed Dr. Isaacs, it notified the Board of his dismissal, and further informed the Board that Dr. Isaacs had “allegedly omitted material facts from his [training license] [a]pplication . . . and the supplement filed along with the application.” Doc. no. 7-1 at 1. “As a result of [that] information, the Board commenced an investigation to determine whether [Dr. Isaacs had] committed professional misconduct pursuant to RSA 329:17, VI and RSA 329:18.” Id.

         In October 2013, the Board informed Dr. Isaacs that a hearing had been scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on February 5, 2014, “to determine whether in May 2011 [he had] engaged in professional misconduct by submitting false information to the Board and for failing to fully disclose all previous medical schools attended.” Id. at 2. On January 29, 2014, Dr. Isaacs notified the Board that he had filed suit against it in Pennsylvania, and he asked the Board to postpone his hearing. He also asked to appear at his hearing telephonically, for medical reasons. The Board denied both requests. On the morning of the day of his hearing, Dr. Isaacs sent the Board an e-mail indicating that he would not be attending, due to inclement weather that would make it impossible for him to drive to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania. The hearing went on as scheduled, without Dr. Isaacs. “Attorney Jeff Cahill appeared as hearing counsel.” Id. at 4.

         About a month after the hearing, the Board issued a Final Decision and Order, which was signed by Penny Taylor, in her capacity as Administrator and Authorized Representative of the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Taylor described the evidence before the Board as including: (1) the two e-mails in which Dr. Isaacs had requested continuances of the hearing; (2) Dr. Isaacs's application to the Board for a residency training license; (3) an excerpt from a court order issued in his case against USC; and (4) the confidential settlement agreement that resulted from that suit. See Id. at 5.

         In its decision, the Board noted that DHMC's dismissal of Dr. Isaacs resulted in the cancellation of his medical license as a matter of law. But, it also went on to issue a reprimand, based upon its findings that when Dr. Isaacs applied for his license, he “knowingly made a false statement and further failed to disclose a material fact.” Id. at 8-9. According to the Board's decision, the material fact that Dr. Isaacs failed to disclose was his expulsion from Keck. See Id. at 2, 8. The Board's decision is posted online somewhere in the public domain. Since the Board reprimanded him, Dr. Isaacs has applied to many residency programs, including the program at DHMC, but he has not received a single interview.

         This action followed. In his original complaint, plaintiff claimed, through the vehicle of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that the Board had violated his constitutionally protected liberty interest in practicing his chosen occupation by reprimanding him.

         However, in his First Amended Complaint, doc. no. 40, plaintiff drops the Board as a § 1983 defendant and, instead, asserts a § 1983 claim (Count I) against Cahill, Taylor, and the individual members of the Board, who are unnamed, for violating his rights to substantive and procedural due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Count I concludes with the following prayer for relief: “WHEREFORE, Dr. Isaacs seeks monetary relief to be made whole, or, the retraction, withdrawal, and elimination from the public domain of the Board's Order.” Id. at ¶ 66.

         Against the Board, plaintiff brings: (1) a discrimination claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213 (Count III); (2) an ADA retaliation claim (Count IV); and (3) a claim captioned “Prospective Injunctive Relief Against the NH Board of Medicine in its Official Capacity, ” doc. no. 40 at 19 (capitalization omitted), (Count V). Count V begins this way: “The statutory and constitutional violations outlined above have resulted in a deprivation of the plaintiff's rights; and, the wrongful dissemination of false, confidential, and detrimental information regarding the plaintiff.” Id. at ¶ 93. Count V concludes this way:

The plaintiff is seeking injunctive and declaratory relief against the State, or the “office” of the NH Board of Medicine to take down and/or retract the Constitutionally infirm ...

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