August 15, 2017 – On August 9, 2017, Christian Wolff won his attorney fees and costs by declaration of the Oregon Court of Appeals (OCA). Wolff Wins Attorney Fees Against Psychology Board He won his case against the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners (OBPE) by declaration of the OCA on April 19, 2017.
Some of the documents regarding Mr. Wolff’s case can be found on the OBPE website. The reader is cautioned to consider the may encounter OBPE bias here as well as selective publication. http://obpe.alcsoftware.com/files/wolff.christian_1563.pdf
The victory is both large and small. It is large because of the rarity of such awards that the victory is important. HARBR is making plans to address the injustices surrounding the denial of attorney fees to licensees who prevail against healthcare licensing boards. As it is, the appellate courts seem ignorant of that which actually happens when a healthcare licensing board puts licensees through disciplinary processes.
To paraphrase the statutes, courts rarely award attorney fees to licensees who prevail against boards because they do not want boards to be “timorous” in pursuing licensees who may represent a true risk of danger to the public.
Coupled with this, current Oregon statutes and rules allow many healthcare regulatory boards to automatically assess (charge) the cost of all proceedings against a licensee to the licensee regardless of outcome. These dozen or so Oregon healthcare regulatory boards are not even required to petition (ask) the court to be awarded their attorney fees and costs.
In the 2017 Legislative session, the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners presented a bill to the legislature which would allow them to join the ranks of the other healthcare regulatory boards in their ability to do this. Thanks to the testimonies of the Oregon Psychological Association (OPA), The Oregon State Bar – Administrative Law Division, and members of HARBR, this bill was roundly defeated and died in committee.
Christian Wolff won his attorney fees in part by arguing that the automatic assessment of fees to the licensees would cause licensees to be “timorous” in challenging wrongful actions taken against them by regulatory boards. Wolff’s argument was not unlike the argument presented to the legislature by Carson Bowler of the Oregon State Bar (OSB). OSB Carson Bowler Testimony HB 2329
Mr. Wolff’s victory is small in that his attorney fees and costs were likely less than 1% of what the OBPE’s attack upon him cost him. Despite the common belief that regulatory boards cannot be sued in civil court for damages HARBR is researching this and finding that this common belief may be false.
One of the losses incurred by Mr. Wolff is an entire year of work due to OBPE’s suspension of his license – suspension which was fully served during the process of appeals in which Mr. Wolff prevailed.