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Jackson v. Connecticut State Department of Public Health

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 21, 2019



          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Beverly Jackson brings this action against the Connecticut State Department of Health (“DPH”); Raul Pino, the Commissioner of DPH; and Adrienne Anderson, an investigations supervisor with DPH. (ECF No. 1.) She alleges that the Defendants violated her rights under the First Amendment by issuing a cease and desist order accusing her of practicing medicine without a license and directing her to refrain from “engaging in the Nedicine sacramental rites of [her] religion.” (ECF No. 2 at 1.) She filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction together with her complaint. (ECF No. 2.) She seeks a declaratory judgment that the Connecticut statute governing the practice of medicine or surgery, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 20-9, is unconstitutional as applied to her and an injunction preventing the Defendants from enforcing the statute through the cease and desist order. (ECF No. 1 at 4; ECF No. 2 at 9.) The Defendants oppose her motion for preliminary injunction and move to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and (b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. For the reasons explained below, the motion is GRANTED. Ms. Jackson's motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED, and the complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Allegations

         Ms. Jackson's complaint contains few factual allegations. She states that “the Connecticut Medical Board issued [her] a cease and desist order that is violating [her] religious rights protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) As a result of the cease and desist order, she is “unable to worship God according to the dictates of [her] own heart because the Defendants have ordered [her] to stop practicing the spiritual tenets of [her] religion in the ministry of healing that Jesus Christ commanded [her] to do.” (Id. at 3.) Although Ms. Jackson does not describe the basis of the cease and desist letter in her complaint, her motion for preliminary injunction explains that she is “a Nedicine physician licensed nationally to diagnose, treat, and prescribe sacred rites related to faith-based Nedicine.” (ECF No. 2 at 8.) She alleges that the Board “falsely claimed that” her practice of “Nedicine” constituted the “unlicensed practice of medicine in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 20-9.” (ECF No. 2 at 3.) She filed a request with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. (Id. at 3-4.) She alleges that the Commission issued a “final decision” indicating that DPH had “no records containing any evidence that [she] engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine . . . .” (Id.)

         B. Statutory Background

         “The Connecticut General Statutes provide a comprehensive regulatory scheme overseeing the practice of medicine and surgery in Connecticut.” Jackson I, 2016 WL 3460304, at *2. DPH is tasked with reviewing and investigating any complaints it receives about providers whose treatment does not meet the standard of care or who are practicing medicine without a license. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-14(a)(10); Id. § 20-13e. If DPH determines that there is probable cause to conclude that an individual is practicing medicine without a license, it issues a statement of charges with the Connecticut Medical Examining Board (“the Board”). Id. § 20-13e; Id. § 20-8a(g).[1] The Board then holds a hearing and issues a decision on the charges. Id. § 19a-10; Id. § 20-13e(a). “Once the Board issues a final decision, that decision may be appealed to the Connecticut Superior Court pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-183(a).” Jackson v. Connecticut Dep't of Pub. Health, 2016 WL 3460304, at *2 (D. Conn. 2016) (hereinafter Jackson I). The Board may “issue an appropriate order to any person found to be violating an applicable statute or regulation, providing for the immediate discontinuation of the violation.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-11. The Board may enforce the order by petitioning “the superior court for the judicial district wherein the violation occurred . . . .” Id.

         C. Administrative Proceedings

         The same day Ms. Jackson filed her complaint, the Court ordered her to provide additional information about the challenged administrative proceeding to determine whether it could exercise subject matter jurisdiction over her claims. (ECF No. 9.) She provided the following information in response to the order:

         On November 16, 2015, DPH filed charges with the Board alleging that Ms. Jackson engaged in “the unlicensed practice of medicine.” (ECF No. 12 at 2.) The Commissioner of DPH notified the Board that its decision would be a “proposed decision” under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-14, and that she or her designee would render a final decision. The Board held a hearing on the charges on February 2, 2016. (Id. at 10). On May 16, 2017, the Board recommended that DPH order Ms. Jackson to cease and desist “from diagnosing, treating, operating for, and or/prescribing for any injury[, ] deformity, ailment or disease, actual or imaginary, of another person, for compensation, gain or reward, received or expected . . . until [she] has obtained a license as provided in § 20-10 of the Statutes.” (Id. at 16.) DPH accepted the Board's recommendation on June 8, 2017, (id. at 8), and, after reconsidering its decision sua sponte, reaffirmed its acceptance of the Board's recommendation on July 28, 2017. (Id. at 7.)

         D. Prior Lawsuit

         Ms. Jackson's response to the Court's order also describes an earlier lawsuit that she brought in this District against DPH, Adrienne Anderson, and then-Commissioner of DPH, Jewel Mullen. (See ECF No. 12 at 3 (citing Jackson I, No. 3:15-cv-750 (CSH) (D. Conn., May 19, 2015).) The Court will take judicial notice of the allegations and the court's ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss in that case.

         Ms. Jackson filed her complaint in Jackson I on May 19, 2015, two years after DPH first began investigating her “Ňedicine-related practices.” Jackson I, 2016 WL 3460304 at *3. As Judge Haight summarized

Plaintiff's central claim is that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has sanctioned her practice of Ňedicine and that by issuing her a trademark, the federal government preempted Connecticut's ability to regulate Ňedicine, even if, as Defendants assert, “Connecticut finds that the practice of Ňedicine constitutes the practice of medicine defined by the Connecticut General Statutes” without the requisite medical license. Doc. 28-1, at 2. Furthermore, in “[b]uilding off this central premise, Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendants' attempt to investigate her ...

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