The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Guttman v. Khalsa on Wednesday, January 11, 2012.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. Petitioner is a physician with a history of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. At the time he brought this case, he was practicing medicine in New Mexico. The Board of Medical Examiners summarily suspended Petitioner’s license after finding clear and convincing evidence that “[Petitioner]’s continuation in practice would constitute an imminent danger to public safety.” Later, “after recognizing an extensive pattern of disruptive and abusive behavior by [Petitioner] in dealing with patients and healthcare professionals, the Board revoked his license. The Board also found that further treatment of his mental health problems was unlikely to succeed, and that [Petitioner]’s inability to interact professionally with others posed a danger to his patients.”
Petitioner challenged the Board’s findings in state court, asserting for the first time that the Board’s actions violated Title II of the ADA. Because Petitioner had not raised an ADA claim before the Board, the state court refused to consider it and affirmed the revocation of his license. Petitioner also filed a pro se complaint in federal district court against New Mexico and two individuals: the Board’s administrative prosecutor and the Board’s hearing officer. The district court granted the Respondents’ motion for summary judgment after finding that the individual defendants were entitled to absolute immunity.
“The question presented in this appeal is whether the Eleventh Amendment protects New Mexico from a suit for money damages under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).” The Court concluded that it does. “New Mexico has state sovereign immunity from a claim that it violated the ADA when it revoked the medical license of a physician whose practice the state claimed constituted an imminent danger to the public. As a result, [the Court] found the district court did not err by dismissing the ADA claim of [Petitioner] against the State of New Mexico for revoking his medical license. [The Court also concluded that] the state’s actions did not violate the United States Constitution.” However, Petitioner may still have extant claims for prospective injunctive relief.