Professional Licensure Defense
Department of Regulation and Licensing
Richter & Phillips has a successful track record of defending healthcare and business professionals in Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing investigations and disciplinary complaints. We understand the emotional turmoil and financial impact that disciplinary investigations and sanctions have on licensed professionals. We guide our clients in the early stages of the investigative process, prepare appropriate responses to the investigating agency, and continue until the best solution is achieved.
We aggressively defend our professional clients in any formal disciplinary proceedings, to achieve a dismissal or settlement satisfactory to our client. It is our job to
- ensure that all relevant facts favorable to our client are known,
- see that the appropriate law and standard of care are considered in evaluating whether or not a rule violation has occurred
- make sure that all factors in favor of our client and in mitigation of a potential sanction are made known to the investigating attorney and examining board
- communicate with our client at all stages to make clear all our client’s risks, available choices, and likely outcomes.
Often we are able to achieve a closure of the investigation with a determination by the investigating examining board or Division of Enforcement that there is no violation or no grounds to seek discipline. If a potential ethical violation or practice violation is found to have occurred, we negotiate resolutions, including an outright dismissal or a stipulated settlement that minimizes potential adverse impacts on our client’s license.
If clients hire us soon after receiving notice of an investigation, we assume the primary responsibility for providing information to the Department of Regulation and Licensing and a response to the investigation. We consult with clients, review their records, consult with experts if necessary, and provide a response to the Department of Regulation and Licensing that explains our client’s conduct clearly, completely and in the most favorable light.
Often a complaint is initiated based on a miscommunication or misunderstanding between the licensed professional and their client. Sometimes the professional examining board or Division of Enforcement attorney prosecuting the case will misunderstand the law applicable to the allegations, or have a misunderstanding of the professional conduct required under the circumstances of the case. When applicable, and with our client’s permission, we will consult with experts to understand the appropriate standard of care and professional conduct rules applicable to the alleged rule violations.
Overview of the Disciplinary Process
The Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL) is the administrative agency for the State of Wisconsin that issues new licenses, renewal applications, and reinstatement of licenses for more than 100 professions. DRL investigates and prosecutes professional misconduct complaints. DRL and each profession’s examining board may discipline licensees who violate professional conduct rules or who have engaged in unprofessional conduct. The Department of Regulation and Licensing issues licenses to many professions, including physicians, chiropractors, veterinarians, nurses, and mental health professionals.
Many of the professions are regulated by examining boards whose members include licensees in that profession and members of the public. For example, physicians are regulated by the Medical Examining Board, nurses are regulated by the Board of Nursing, and psychologists are regulated by the Psychology Examining Board.
A number of professions do not have examining boards but still have their licenses issued by the Department of Regulation and Licensing.
Unprofessional Conduct Complaints and Sanctions
The Division of Enforcement in the Department of Regulation and Licensing screens, investigates, and prosecutes complaints of unprofessional conduct in the professions. Each examining board establishes professional conduct rules. Professional misconduct complaints may include allegations of dishonesty, conflict of interest, substandard healthcare, improper or inadequate communications, sexual misconduct, inadequate record-keeping, etc.
Opening of Investigative File
If the Division of Enforcement and the professional examining board believe there is a valid basis for a finding of unprofessional conduct, an investigative file is opened. A licensed professional may be contacted by a Division of Enforcement investigator or a Division of Enforcement attorney, or the licensed professional may receive a letter in the mail stating that there has been a complaint made against him or her, and that a response to the complaint is required. In most cases the specific allegations of misconduct are explained to the licensee and an opportunity is given to respond. After receiving information and records related to the matter, the Division of Enforcement attorney will meet with a member of the examining board and make a preliminary decision as to whether a rule of professional conduct has been violated, creating a reasonable basis to impose a sanction against the licensee.
If an investigative file is not dismissed after information is received from the licensee, or resolved with the licensee by stipulation, a formal disciplinary complaint is commenced. The formal disciplinary complaint process is an administrative proceeding in which an evidentiary hearing takes place in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). After both sides have presented their evidence and arguments, the ALJ will submit a proposed decision to the professional examining board, with copies to the attorney for the Division of Enforcement and to the licensee’s attorney. Both the Division of Enforcement and the licensee have an opportunity to object to the proposed decision. The professional examining board then issues a final decision on whether or not professional misconduct has occurred, and may impose sanctions including, but not limited to, reprimand, suspension or revocation of the professional license.
An unfavorable decision by the professional examining board can be appealed to the circuit court, and the circuit court’s decision is subject to review by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and, ultimately, by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.