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Complainant lacks standing to intervene in license renewal

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire, in a May 22 decision, denied an action brought by an anti-abortion advocacy group which challenged the state pharmacy board's renewal of a limited drug distribution license held by the state's Planned Parenthood chapter

(Appeal of New Hampshire Right to Life).

In 2012, the group, New Hampshire Right to Life, filed a complaint with New Hampshire’s Board of Pharmacy, claiming that the New England branch of Planned Parenthood had not properly followed all of the procedures necessary for it to maintain its license as a limited retail drug distributor. These lapses, said the group, meant that Planned Parenthood was illegally dispensing prescription drugs at its clinics.

The advocacy organization also sent letters to the board objecting to the renewal of Planned Parenthood’s license.

After the board renewed Planned Parenthood’s licenses over NHRTL’s objections, the advocacy organization filed a formal request for a rehearing. The board rejected the request, on the grounds that NHRTL had no legally cognizable interest which would allow it to be a party to the board’s decision.

NHRTL appealed the ruling, and the case went up to the state’s supreme court, which issued a decision written by Justice Robert Lynn.

In its appeal, NHRTL argued that its attempt to intervene in the license renewal decision was supported by a state regulation which allows any person who files a misconduct complaint against a licensee to be a party to the case.

The justices disagreed. The regulation cited by the advocacy organization, Justice Lynn wrote, was relevant only to discipline complaints against a licensee, not the license renewal process.

Although NHRTL had argued that language in the regulations applied the complaints provision to the renewal process, the court rejected the notion, writing that the connection was “strained.” In any case, Lynn wrote, the regulations would still provide the board with discretion whether to allow complainants to challenge its decisions.

NHRTL also claimed that it had standing to intervene under a regulation which allows parties directly affected by a board decision to request a rehearing, but the court rejected the argument on the grounds that the organization did not allege a specific injury caused by the renewal of Planned Parenthood’s license.