United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
IKECHUKWU HYGINUS OKORIE, M.D. PLAINTIFF
VIRGINIA M. CRAWFORD, M.D., ET AL. DEFENDANTS
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Plaintiff Dr. Ikechukwu Okorie's Motion for
Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order,
Docket No. 9, and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Docket
No. 27. After considering the motions, evidence, and
applicable law, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion and
grants Defendants' Motion.
Factual and Procedural History
Okorie operates a primary care practice out of his
Hattiesburg clinic, the Inland Family Practice Center
(“Inland”). In 2007, the Mississippi State Board
of Medical Licensure (“Board”) first issued Dr.
Okorie a certificate to prescribe opioids and other pain
medications to patients.
October 28, 2010, Board investigators and a Drug Enforcement
Agency (“DEA”) officer visited Inland in response
to a pharmacist's complaint that Dr. Okorie excessively
prescribed medications. They reviewed patient records and
identified patients who were on a combination of opiates,
benzodiazepines, and Carisprodol-known as the “Holy
Trinity” in the black market drug trade. They discussed
this concern with Dr. Okorie, who said he would implement
changes to his practice to comply with the Board's
regulations and state law.
October 13, 2011, Board investigators returned to Inland to
conduct a follow-up visit. They again found similar drug
combinations in patient records. Still, four days later, the
Board renewed Dr. Okorie's pain certificate, which
allowed him to continue prescribing opioids and other pain
medications to patients.
30, 2012, Dr. Okorie's certification expired and he
applied to renew it. In response, the Board denied his
application on the ground that his training in chronic pain
management was insufficient. Dr. Okorie resubmitted his
application and appeared before the Board's Executive
Committee on July 9, 2014. The next day, the Board sent a
letter stating Dr. Okorie was unqualified to receive a pain
certificate. The Board ordered him to immediately reduce his
volume of chronic pain patients and refer them to certified
Okorie completed additional training in pain management and
again appeared before the Committee on September 3, 2014.
Following the meeting, the Committee temporarily granted Dr.
Okorie a pain certificate-subject to the approval of the
entire Board. After the full Board reviewed the
Committee's recommendations, the Board decided that it
wanted additional information regarding Dr. Okorie's
application and requested that he appear at the next Board
meeting on November 13, 2014.
the November 13 meeting took place, the Board executed an
Administrative Inspection and Search Warrant at Inland to
obtain patient records for review. On October 29, 2014, five
Board investigators, a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent,
a Hattiesburg High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area agent, and
two DEA investigators searched Inland and interviewed staff.
During the search, an investigator detained Dr. Okorie in his
10, 2015, the Board issued its initial Summons and Affidavit,
containing 23 counts of alleged violations of Mississippi
Code § 73-25-29, which establishes the grounds for the
“nonissuance, suspension, revocation or restriction of
a license” by the Board, and § 73-25-83, which
permits the Board to deny a doctor's authorization to
practice medicine if, after a hearing, he is found
unqualified. On October 13, 2015, the Board filed an Amended
Summons and Affidavit, reducing the charges to 16 counts of
violations by Dr. Okorie.
November 12, 2015 hearing, the Board found that Dr. Okorie
was guilty of seven of the 16 alleged counts. The Board ordered
Dr. Okorie to (1) refrain from taking any new chronic pain
and/or addiction medicine patients; (2) within six months,
cease managing his existing chronic pain and/or addiction
medicine patients; (3) within one year, complete continuing
medical education courses in prescribing of controlled
substances, proper record keeping, medical ethics, and
boundaries; (4) every month for the next year, submit to the
Board monthly Prescription Monitoring Program reports; and
(5) pay the Board's costs up to $10, 000. Twelve days
after the hearing, the Board filed and reported a state
licensure action against Dr. Okorie with the National
Practitioner Data Bank.
Okorie appealed the Board's decision to the Chancery
Court of Hinds County, Mississippi. First, he contended that
his due process rights were violated when he was denied a
fair and impartial hearing because of the Board's
“pre-existing bias and prejudice.” Docket No.
27-2 at 4. Second, he argued that the Board's decision
was arbitrary and capricious, and against the substantial
weight of the evidence. The chancery court rejected each of
Dr. Okorie's arguments and affirmed the Board's
decision on December 6, 2016. Docket No. 32-2. Dr. Okorie
failed to timely appeal this decision to the Mississippi
Supreme Court, and on August 16, 2017, the chancery court
denied Dr. Okorie's motion to extend the time for filing
a notice of appeal.
filed this action on July 7, 2017. The Complaint names as
defendants Board investigators Jonathon Dalton and Leslie
Ross, and the Board members who conducted his November 12,
2015 hearing. Defendants are sued only in their
Okorie alleges that Defendants (1) violated his Fourteenth
Amendment procedural due process rights by denying him
sufficient notice and a fair opportunity to be heard; (2)
violated his substantive due process rights by depriving him
of his liberty interest in pursuing his occupation; and (3)
falsely arrested him without probable cause in violation of
the Fourth Amendment. Dr. Okorie also asserts state law
claims of false imprisonment and defamation. He requests
monetary damages, including lost future profits, in an amount
in excess of $12.5 million, in addition to costs, expenses,
and attorneys' fees.
August 14, 2017, Dr. Okorie filed this Motion for Preliminary
Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order. He seeks
equitable relief in the form of removing the sanctions
imposed by the Board's November 12, 2015 order, including
reinstating his pain management certification. A month later,
Defendants moved to dismiss all counts-except Dr.
Okorie's false arrest claim against the Board
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Defendants have answered the Complaint, the present motion is
considered a motion for judgment on the pleadings ...