Thursday, March 21, 2024

Sixth Circuit Rejects Medical Resident's Due Process Claim

The Sixth Circuit rejected a procedural due process claim by a medical resident at a public medical school after the school dismissed the resident for unprofessional behavior. Consistent with other courts that have considered the issue, the court ruled that a medical resident was more like a student than an employee, and therefore entitled to lesser procedural protections.

The case, Mares v. Miami Valley Hospital, arose out of complaints against the plaintiff, a medical resident at Wright State University's Boonshoft School of Medicine and Miami Valley Hospital, for unprofessional behavior. After a series of interventions, probation, and a committee vote to dismiss the plaintiff, a review panel recommended that the plaintiff remain on probation through graduation, but that any additional violations of WSU's academic and professional standards would result in immediate termination from the program.

The dean and president of Miami Valley rejected the recommendation, however, and affirmed the earlier committee decision to dismiss the plaintiff. WSU's provost affirmed. The plaintiff sued, arguing that WSU violated procedural due process.

The Sixth Circuit disagreed. The court first ruled that the plaintiff, as a resident, was more like a student than an employee, and that she was therefore entitled only to the "minimal" procedural due process protections of a student dismissed for academic reasons. (The court based this conclusion on the nature of the program and program materials. It also noted that this is consistent with every other court that considered the question.) The court then wrote that she received "more than enough process":

It is undisputed that [the plaintiff] accumulated several complaints about her unprofessional behavior from medical students, colleagues, and WSU faculty members throughout her residency. In less than two years at WSU, [the plaintiff] had been formally warned about her performance, suspended for several days, and placed on probation. Despite these formal warnings, [the plaintiff] continued with her problematic conduct and, after deliberation, WSU's Clinical Competency Committee recommended dismissing her from its residency program. In doing so, the Committee set in motion WSU's extensive internal procedures . . . which ensure that residents facing an adverse action are provided with quintessential due process.

The court also rejected the plaintiff's substantive due process claim, ruling that she had no substantive due process right in her residency (again, an educational program), but in any event that the school didn't act arbitrarily and capriciously or in a way that would shock the conscience.

Cases and Case Materials, Due Process (Substantive), News, Opinion Analysis, Procedural Due Process | Permalink


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