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Licensee death does not reverse revocation that’s on appeal

Professional disciplinary actions are sufficiently dissimilar to criminal convictions that the doctrine of abatement, whereby a criminal defendant’s conviction is overturned if the defendant dies during the appeals process, does not apply to professional license revocation, an Ohio appeals court held December 17 (Polisetty v. State Medical Board of Ohio).

After the state medical board revoked Sudhir Polisetty’s medical license, he appealed. But Polisetty died in October 2015, before a final appeal could be heard.

After learning of Polisetty’s death, the state moved to dismiss the appeal, but Polisetty’s attorney opposed the motion, hoping to vindicate the late doctor posthumously. In his motion, the attorney drew analogies to the criminal law doctrine of abatement, whereby a criminal conviction abates due to a defendant’s death during the course of an appeal.

The Court of Appeals of Ohio in Franklin County, in an opinion by Judge William Klatt, disagreed. The doctrine of abatement, Klatt wrote, does not apply to medical board license revocation proceedings.

Noting that the case was one of first impression, the court held that the abatement doctrine, by the language of the court decisions which created it, applied only to criminal proceedings. This case, he concluded, was thus moot.

“Even if the appeal were to proceed to a favorable conclusion,” Klatt wrote, “we doubt that the medical board has it within its power to restore the late Dr. Polisetty to the practice of medicine’

“. . . While the board’s disciplinary actions may have a collateral impact upon the reputation of those concerned, there is no provision for taking express and effective action in this regard beyond the board’s licensure powers. In sum, the board is not in the business of protecting reputations, but of granting and revoking medical licenses, credentials that it manifestly could no longer offer Dr. Polisetty.”