On appeal from the Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, Board of Medical Examiners.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 31, 2011
Before Judges Kestin and Newman.
Ranvir Ahlawat, the licensee, appeals from the January 14, 2010 action of the Board of Medical Examiners (Board) revoking his license to engage in the practice of medicine and surgery. The Board's order provides: "No application for reinstatement of license will be considered for a minimum of three years." Among its other provisions, the order specifies the showings licensee will be required to make at such time as he seeks re-instatement of his license, and reserves to the Board in granting reinstatement its "right to condition or limit [the] license, as in its sole discretion seems appropriate to the circumstances of this matter, and in order to protect the public health, safety and welfare."
The license removal charges were in three counts. Count one specified licensee's June 2009 criminal convictions in federal court for conspiracy to distribute controlled dangerous substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C.A. § 846; and for money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1956. For these crimes, according to the complaint, Ahlawat was sentenced to five years of probation; a $1500 fine was assessed; and forfeiture of $2,120,257 was ordered. The federal crime convictions were charged in the licensure complaint as violations of N.J.S.A. 45:1-21 (b), (f), and (e), as well as N.J.S.A. 45:9-6. The charges had been based on licensee's conduct from December 2002 to May 2004, participating in schemes to fill prescription requests via the internet, in which he furnished the medical approvals required, "solely by reviewing questionnaires filled out by the consumers on the internet without any physical examination of the consumers or contact with their previous physicians."
Count two of the complaint charged the conduct underlying the federal criminal convictions as violations of the improper prescribing provisions of N.J.A.C. 13:35-7.1A and N.J.A.C. 13:35-7.6(a), as well as the inadequate recordkeeping provisions of N.J.A.C. 13:35-7.6(g). These infractions were designated as "subjecting [licensee] to sanctions pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:1-21(h)."
The third count of the complaint alleged licensee's arrest in May 2007 on shoplifting charges, and his subsequent efforts to bribe the store's loss prevention manager to drop the charges. Licensee ultimately pled guilty to loitering in resolution of this matter. This conduct allegedly violated N.J.S.A. 45:9-6, which imposes a "continuing requirement of good moral character" on all licensees.
The Board's decision notes that licensee "did not contest the allegations of the complaint, but submitted written arguments in mitigation." He also appeared pro se at the hearing on the matter. He "was afforded the opportunity to give testimony and present evidence and argument on the issue of sanctions." In his testimony, he "acknowledged that he did not contest the allegations . . . , elaborated upon the arguments made in his written submissions to the Board, and responded to questions" from the Board.
On appeal, licensee offers the same arguments in mitigation that he advanced to the Board. Unless the agency's decision was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, we are obliged to defer to the judgmental exercise of that administrative body, charged by the Legislature to administer the field and promote policies consistent with the legislative design, and possessing subject matter expertise. See Campbell v. Department of Civil Serv., 39 N.J. 556, 562 (1963). We discern no basis in the record for questioning the Board's determination in this matter. The licensee's conduct was egregiously in violation of statutory and administrative standards, showing obvious disregard for the ethical precepts that govern the medical profession and society generally. None of the arguments he offers in mitigation provide any basis for minimizing these standards or the appropriate sanctions imposed by the Board for disregarding them.
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