Wassef v. Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners (3/28/2017)

April 4, 2017

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the Dental Board does not violate due process by summarily suspending a dentist’s license without a prior hearing in emergency circumstances so long as the dentist receives a prompt hearing afterward.

The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners (the “Board”) learned that a dentist, who had a history of substance abuse, had been prescribing large quantities of a muscle relaxant to people who were not patients of record.  The dentist complied with the Board’s request for a drug test, but refused to participate in a preliminary substance abuse screening.

The Board determined that there was a significant risk that the dentist had relapsed in his addiction and issued an interim order directing the dentist to obtain an inpatient substance abuse evaluation within two weeks.  When the dentist failed to comply with the interim order, the Board took emergency action to suspend the dentist’s license.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the Board ordered that the dentist’s license remain suspended until he complied with the interim order.  The superior court affirmed the Board’s decision.  

The dentist appealed, arguing (1) that the Board denied him due process by suspending his license without a prior hearing and opportunity to challenge the merits of the interim order; and (2) that the Board’s determination that he was not safe to practice dentistry lacked substantial evidence.  

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  First, the Court ruled that the Board is not required to hold a hearing prior to ordering a dentist to submit to an examination under A.R.S. § 31-1207(b)(6), citing cases holding that mental and physical examinations do not implicate a licensee’s property interest and thus do not require due process.

The Court further concluded that a prompt post-suspension hearing and opportunity to be heard constituted adequate due process when the Board concludes that an emergency exists under A.R.S. § 32-1263.01(C).  Accordingly, the Court rejected the dentist’s argument that the Board was required to hold a hearing before summarily suspending his license.

Finally, the Court determined that the Board did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in determining that an emergency existed and that the dentist was not safe to practice.  

Judge Cattani authored the opinion; Judges Winthrop and Judge Rick Williams (sitting by assignment) joined.