On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court unanimously denied review of an appellate court ruling that allowed a state board to discipline a nurse for driving under the influence, even though the incident was unrelated to his job, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).
About the Board
The California Board of Registered Nursing has the authority to license and discipline the state's 400,000 registered nurses.
In February, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation (SB 98) reinstating California's Board of Registered Nursing -- which was disbanded briefly earlier this year -- through 2015.
Board employees investigate about 8,000 cases annually (California Healthline, 2/15).
Background on the Incident
In August 2009, a licensed Silicon Valley nurse was arrested after he was involved in a car accident and found to have a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit.
The nurse pleaded no contest to the charges, and a judge placed him on probation.
After the incident, the Board of Registered Nursing placed the nurse on probation for three years, which meant he could lose his license for any additional misconduct.
Adam Slote, the nurse's lawyer, maintained that the incident had "no substantial relationship to his qualifications for the profession."
Details of Legal Action
A Superior Court judge overturned the board's action, ruling that licensed professionals only can be disciplined for actions related to their work or qualifications.
However, a state appellate court then reinstated the board's order, saying state law allows disciplinary action of nurses who misuse alcohol on or off the job in a way that endangers other people.
The nurse then appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Implications of Latest Ruling
The state Supreme Court's decision not to review the case leaves the appellate court's decision intact. The ruling will be held as binding precedent for trial courts throughout the state (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).