Business Law

Yazdi v. Dental Board of California (Nov. 3, 2020, B298130) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2020 WL 6440798]

Yazdi v. Dental Board of California(Nov. 3, 2020, B298130) __ Cal.App.5th __ [2020 WL 6440798]

Supreme Court’s O.B. decision does not alter review of administrative decisions.

The Dental Board of California filed an accusation against orthodontist Mohammadrez Yazdi, charging that he had failed to comply with its subpoenas seeking dental records of numerous patients and that he had failed to pay administrative fines. Following a 10-day evidentiary hearing, an administrative law judge ruled that the Dental Board had proven some (but not all) accusations by clear and convincing evidence.  The Dental Board adopted the judge’s decision and recommended discipline, revoking Yazdi’s dental license but staying the revocation and placing him on probation for five years.  Yazdi petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate.  After reviewing the Board’s decision under the “independent judgment” standard, the trial court denied the petition and upheld the Board’s decision. 

On appeal, Yazdi argued that, based on Conservatorship of O.B. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 989, the trial court should have taken into account the clear and convincing evidence standard in reviewing the Board’s decision, rather than applying the “independent judgment” standard.  The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that “the O.B. decision is not apposite to the administrative mandate setting.” O.B. supplies guidance for appellate review “where the trial court was the original finder of fact in a contested proceeding, and the ‘clear and convincing’ standard of proof applied to particular findings made by the trial court.” An appellate court evaluating such findings must incorporate the clear and convincing evidence standard into its review. A trial court does not engage in appellate review of an agency decision when ruling on a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, however. Unlike an appellate tribunal, under the independent judgment rule, “the trial court must weigh the evidence and make its own determination as to whether the administrative findings should be sustained.” The appellate court then reviews the decision of the trial court—not the agency decision—under the substantial evidence standard.  Thus, the proposition established in O.B. does not come into play when superior courts engage in writ review of agency decisions.  After rejecting Yazdi’s procedural argument, the Court of Appeal ruled against him on the merits (identifying substantial evidence that supported the trial court’s findings), and affirmed the discipline imposed by the Dental Board.

The bulletin describing this appellate decision was originally prepared for the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys (CSHA) by H. Thomas Watson and Peder K. Batalden, Horvitz & Levy LLP, and is republished with permission.

For more information regarding this bulletin, please contact H. Thomas Watson, Horvitz & Levy LLP, at 818-995-0800 or htwatson@horvitzlevy.com.

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