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Pennsylvania: Murder of wife not “too far in the past” to count against licensee’s application

A Pennsylvania appellate court, in a March 30 ruling, upheld a decision by the state’s podiatry board to deny license reinstatement to a licensee whose license had been revoked after he was convicted of murdering his wife. (Long v. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, State Board of Podiatry).

In 2003, Karl Long, a licensed Pennsylvania and Massachusetts podiatrist, was convicted of murdering Elaine Long, his estranged wife, and sentenced to five to ten years in prison. The Pennsylvania podiatry board revoked his license shortly after.

After his release from prison in 2013, Long applied to reinstate his license. The board rejected the application, citing the murder as evidence of his lack of moral character, as well a lack of favorable character evidence. Long appealed the decision, with the case eventually reaching the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

In his appeal, Long argued that the murder had occurred too far in the past to constitute evidence of his current character. The court rejected this argument, noting both the seriousness of the crime, and the fact that the board had reviewed Long’s subsequent efforts to rehabilitate and to gain parole during his imprisonment before passing judgment on his character.

In response to Long’s argument that the board had failed to adequately consider positive evidence of his character, the court, after noting that it could not second-guess the weigh assigned by the board to the evidence before it, reviewed the board’s efforts, and held that it had no valid reason to overturn the lower body’s determinations.

 The court also rejected Long’s argument that the board erred when a hearing officer denied his request to use telephonic character witnesses, stating that the hearing officer had legitimate concerns about the ability to evaluate witnesses over the phone and the lack of regulations controlling such testimony.