Reciprocal Disciplinary Actions –How to Respond

Pennsylvania reciprocal license disciplinary actions against non-Pennsylvania practicing professionals has resumed with vigor. I receive calls about this issue every day because professionals nation-wide received their education and training in Pennsylvania. Discipline of a professional in their home state triggers Pennsylvania’s license reporting responsibility (upon entry of the order or at annual renewal if charges are pending). Also, home state licensing boards automatically report professional discipline to each jurisdiction in which the respective licensee has advised of possessing a license.

The most important, and first, issue associated with these reciprocal disciplinary actions is the means by which Pennsylvania’s professional boards become aware of a home state discipline. Under either of the above scenarios, failure to report to disciplinary action (before the Board finds out from the reporting state) constitutes a separate and distinct basis for a Pennsylvania licensing board to discipline a licensee. The primary basis for discipline, obviously, will be the underlying disciplinary action. To the extent the discipline is based upon non-criminal action (treatment abuse, positive drug test, or CLE compliance issues), avoiding disciplinary action in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is possible.

Timely responding to Pennsylvania disciplinary notices and prosecutor’s letters is paramount. Failure to respond could trigger automatic disciplinary action without the professional even knowing. Updating registered addresses insures timely receipt of all correspondence. However, failure to respond to a disciplinary notice will cause significant problems.

A second disciplinary order requires reporting to each state Board in which you may be licensed. An additional discipline for failing to respond and/or failing to report discipline constitutes in independent and additional disciplinary action which must now also be reported to each jurisdiction.

The nature and manner a licensee first reports and thereafter responds to a Pennsylvania licensing board out-of-state disciplinary action is crucial to how the matter is ultimately resolved. Proper legal representation at the time of any annual renewal (even though your license may be expired or not practicing) to explain the circumstances of the discipline will help and insure minimal licensing impact. Also, contacting counsel to answer the petition, reschedule hearings, and communicate with the prosecuting attorney are the next steps. Usually, most extrajudicial based disciplinary actions can be resolved with a relatively little amount of legal wrangling. Thus, what was a rather simple second disciplinary process based upon the same set of facts as a home state action becomes compounded if ignored or responded to incorrectly.

If you are disciplined in another state, don’t ignore a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania disciplinary notice, assuming all is lost. Each case is addressed on the independent facts of an underlying allegations. Commonwealth attorney’s always present the worst case scenario in their petitions attempting to intimidate and scare off licensees from retaining counsel. Here you need counsel to properly interpret and evaluate the petition, defenses, and potential eventual disciplinary action.

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