Padmanabham v. Paikos et al
Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton: ENDORSED ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDERFor the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs second motion to disqualify (Docket No. 54) is DENIED. Defendants motion to dismiss complaint (Docket No. 34) is ALLOWED. The motions of the putative intervenors to intervene (Docket Nos. 32, 33, 41, 48 & 60) are DENIED AS MOOT.So ordered.(Caruso, Stephanie)
United States District Court
District of Massachusetts
James Paikos et al.,
Civil Action No.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
This case arises from the indefinite suspension of the
medical license of Dr. Bharanidharan Padmanabhan (“plaintiff” or
“Padmanabhan” or “Dr. Bharani”) by the Massachusetts Board of
Registration in Medicine (“BORIM” or “the Board”).
who appears pro se, alleges that BORIM’s initial decision on
August 7, 2015, recommending no discipline became a final
binding decision on February 3, 2016, and that BORIM’s May,
2017, order suspending his license was therefore an unlawful
ultra vires act.
More specifically, plaintiff alleges that
defendants, ten members or employees of BORIM all of whom are
sued in their official capacities, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by
denying him his Due Process and Equal Protection rights under
the Fourteenth Amendment.
Accordingly, plaintiff seeks
“immediate prospective injunctive relief” under Ex parte Young,
209 U.S. 123 (1908).
Before the Court are 1) defendants’ motion to dismiss
(Docket No. 34), 2) plaintiff’s second motion to disqualify the
presiding judicial officer for bias (Docket No. 54) and 3) five
motions to intervene, filed by patients of Dr. Padmanabhan
(Docket Nos. 32, 33, 41, 48, 60).
Dr. Padmanabhan, who holds MD and PhD degrees, resides and
practiced medicine in Massachusetts.
In November, 2010, BORIM
received a complaint against plaintiff and began an
In July, 2014, the Board commenced disciplinary
proceedings against plaintiff by issuing a statement of
An evidentiary hearing took place before a
Division of Administrative Law Appeals (“DALA”) magistrate in
early 2015, and the magistrate issued a recommended decision on
August 7, 2015.
In January, 2016, BORIM remanded the case to
the magistrate with orders to clarify and explain certain parts
of the decision.
In March, 2016, plaintiff filed a petition for certiorari
in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) asserting
that the Board proceedings violated his constitutional rights
and requesting that the decision of August 7, 2015, be deemed
final pursuant to 801 C.M.R. § 1.01(1l)(c)(3).
petition was denied by a single justice of the SJC, plaintiff
appealed to the full SJC.
While the appeal was pending, the
DALA magistrate issued an amended recommended decision on August
That decision found that Dr. Padmanabhan’s conduct
was below the standard of care.
On May 11, 2017, BORIM issued a decision that adopted, in
large part, the magistrate’s findings.
In prompt sequence,
plaintiff filed an emergency motion in the SJC to stay the
suspension of his license, the SJC denied that motion and issued
an opinion on the matter. See Padmanabhan v. Bd. of Registration
in Med., 77 N.E.3d 312 (Mass. 2017).
The court noted that it
condone the lengthy disciplinary process to which
Padmanabhan has been subjected [and that it had] serious
concerns [about the] repeated resettings of the 180-day
clock pursuant to 801 C.M.R. § 1.01(11)(c)(2).
Id. at 314.
Nonetheless, the Court concluded that plaintiff’s finality
argument was unavailing and that plaintiff
now has the opportunity to pursue judicial review of the
final decision, [of BORIM] pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112, § 64.
Id. at 315.
Plaintiff filed his complaint in this action on May 22,
He requests that BORIM’s decision be stayed “while the en
banc SJC opinion is pending” and until “Dr. Bharani can avail of
remedies in Federal court for the egregious violations”
committed by the Board.
Motion to Disqualify
In June, 2017, plaintiff filed his first “motion for
recusal and substitution/reassignment.”
In that motion,
plaintiff alleged that the judicial officer in this session was
biased in favor of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
Those allegations arose from an earlier case before
the same judge in which he dismissed plaintiff’s complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See
generally Padmanabhan v. Healey, 159 F. Supp. 3d 220 (D. Mass.
2016), aff’d 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 71027, *1 (1st Cir. Jan. 4,
2017), cert. denied, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 4782 (Oct. 2, 2017).
Court denied plaintiff’s motion in July, 2017, noting that the
First Circuit Court of Appeals (“First Circuit”) has concluded
that the judicial officer assigned to the present case has
exhibited no bias.
Plaintiff’s second motion to disqualify reiterates the
arguments plaintiff put forth in his first motion for recusal.
He stresses that Judge Gorton ruled against him in a previous
matter and asserts that “relying on the opinion of the First
Circuit [in Padmanabhan v. Healey] is, at the very least,
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), a judge
[s]hall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his
impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
Conversely, a “trial judge has a duty not to recuse himself
or herself if there is no objective basis for recusal.” In re
U.S., 441 F.3d 44, 67 (1st Cir. 2006) (citing United States v.
Snyder, 235 F.3d 42, 45-46 & n.1 (1st Cir. 2000)) (additional
No developments in this litigation alter
the analysis made with respect to plaintiff’s first motion for
Plaintiff’s motion to disqualify will be denied.
Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007).
In considering the merits of a motion to
dismiss, the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the
pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by
reference in the complaint and matters of which judicial notice
can be taken. Nollet v. Justices of Trial Court of Mass., 83
F.Supp.2d 204, 208 (D. Mass. 2000), aff’d, 248 F.3d 1127 (1st
Furthermore, the Court must accept all factual
allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Langadinos v. Am. Airlines,
Inc., 199 F.3d 68, 69 (1st Cir. 2000).
If the facts in the
complaint are sufficient to state a cause of action, a motion to
dismiss the complaint must be denied. See Nollet, 83 F.Supp.2d
Although a court must accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in a complaint, that doctrine is not
applicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
Threadbare recitals of the legal elements which are
supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice to state
a cause of action. Id. Accordingly, a complaint does not state a
claim for relief where the well-pled facts fail to warrant an
inference of any more than the mere possibility of misconduct.
Id. at 1950.
Padmanabhan seeks a “temporary injunction” pending the
outcome of a future action.
The Court will treat the motion as
being for a preliminary injunction.
The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the
relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits is
held. New Hampshire Right to Life Political Action Comm. v.
Gardner, 99 F.3d 8, 16 (1st Cir. 1996).
To obtain injunctive
relief, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating:
1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, 2) a
significant risk of irreparable harm if the injunction is
withheld, 3) a favorable balance of hardships and 4) a fit
(or lack of friction) between the injunction and the public
Nieves-Márquez v. Puerto Rico, 353 F.3d 108, 120 (1st Cir. 2003)
No individual factor is dispositive.
Amazon.com, Inc. v.
Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
Instead, the court “must weigh and measure each factor against
the other factors and against the form and magnitude of the
relief requested.” Printguard, Inc. v. Anti-Marking Sys., Inc.,
535 F. Supp. 2d 189, 196 (D. Mass. 2008) (quoting Hybritech,
Inc., v. Abbott Labs., 849 F.2d 1446, 1451 (Fed. Cir. 1988)).
1. Likelihood of success on the merits
Defendants contend that plaintiff’s cause of action is
barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion.
that claim preclusion applies and asserts that the parties are
not in privity, that the prior action did not produce a final
judgment on the merits and that the state and federal cases have
“no overlapping claims”.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1738, judicial proceedings of the
several states “shall have the same full faith and credit in
every court within the United States.” Cf. U.S. Const. art. IV,
§ 1 (mandating that “Full Faith and Credit be given in each
State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings” of
each other state).
Under that full-faith-and-credit mandate,
federal courts must “give preclusive effect to a state-court
judgment if the state court itself would.” Newman v. Krintzman,
723 F.3d 308, 310 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Epstein, 516 U.S. 367, 373 (1996)) (additional
Under Massachusetts law, claim preclusion
applies when three elements are satisfied:
the parties to the prior and present actions must either be
identical or in privity; the causes of action must arise
out of the same nucleus of operative fact; and the prior
action must have produced a final judgment on the merits.
Goldstein v. Galvin, 719 F.3d 16, 23 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing
Kobrin v. Board of Registration in Med., 832 N.E.2d 628 (Mass.
a. Privity of parties
The emergency motion to stay that plaintiff filed in the
SJC in May, 2017 named the Board of Registration in Medicine and
the Division of Administrative Law Appeals as defendants.
Accordingly, plaintiff denies that the defendants in the present
case are in privity with the two entities that were named in the
Plaintiff is mistaken.
A public official, sued in his or her official capacity is
treated as a “proxy for the government entity that employs him
and is in privity with that entity.” Goldstein v. Galvin, 719
F.3d 16, 23 (1st Cir. 2013) (citing Town of Seabrook v. New
Hampshire, 738 F.2d 10, 11 (1st Cir. 1984) (per curiam)).
Each defendant named in plaintiff’s complaint is either a
member or an employee of the Massachusetts Board of Registration
Plaintiff also notes explicitly that he is suing
each defendant in his or her official capacity.
sued in their official capacity, are a proxy for the
Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, the same entity
that plaintiff sued in the May, 2017, state action.
that different individuals served as Secretary of the Board and
as members of the Board does not alter the fact that BORIM is
and was a party to both actions.
The parties to the prior and
present actions are in privity.
b. Nucleus of operative fact
Plaintiff declares that the present action asserts a
different claim than the state action.
The federal action, he
contends 1) is “about the conduct of the defendants outside the
administrative hearing,” 2) has nothing to do with the “true
Final Decision that resulted in February, 2016” and 3) is about
defendants’ intentional violation of plaintiff’s rights through
ultra vires acts.
Courts require a common nucleus of operative facts because
claim preclusion applies even where the claimant “is prepared in
a second action to present different evidence or legal theories
to support his claim.” Hudson v. MacEachern, 94 F. Supp. 3d 59,
66 (D. Mass. 2015) (quoting Heacock v. Heacock, 520 N.E.2d 151,
152–53 (Mass. 1988)).
The nucleus of operative facts between the present case and
the state action is identical.
In both cases, plaintiff’s
claims arise out of the same proceedings and disputed final
decisions of BORIM.
Plaintiff’s reliance in the present case on
§ 1983 and his constitutional rights does not affect the
The causes of action in the two cases arise out of the same
nucleus of operative fact.
c. Final judgment on the merits
At the heart of plaintiff’s complaint is the contention
that the May, 2017 decision of the Board is not a “final
decision” because its prior decision in February, 2016, was “the
true Final Decision” of BORIM.
Plaintiff relies on 801 C.M.R. §
1.01(11)(c)(3), which provides:
Failure to Issue Final Decision. If the Agency fails to
issue a final decision within 180 days of the filing or refiling of the tentative decision, the initial decision
shall become the final decision of the Agency, not subject
to further Agency review.
The SJC has already rejected the identical argument.
its opinion issued on June 27, 2017, the court held that 1) the
180-day period began to run anew when the Board resubmitted the
tentative decision to the presiding magistrate, 2) the May,
2017, decision (not the February, 2016 decision) was final and
3) the appropriate avenue to seek judicial review was by a
petition to the SJC pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112, § 64.
petition needed to be filed within 30 days from the time
plaintiff received notice of the final decision of the agency,
i.e. not later than June 11, 2017. See Hamel v. Bd. of
Registration of Funeral Directors & Embalmers, 867 N.E.2d 319,
320 (2007) (citing M.G.L. c. 112, § 64) (additional citation
Plaintiff failed to file that petition at any time,
much less in a timely manner.
Plaintiff requests that this Court declare the February
2016 decision the “true final decision”.
Even if it thought
such a declaration appropriate (which it does not), this Court
lacks the authority to do so.
“It is not within the province of a federal court” to judge
whether a state court misapplied state law. In re Kersey, 402
F.3d 217, 219 (1st Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). “Federal
courts may intervene in the state judicial process only to
correct wrongs of a constitutional dimension.” Wainwright v.
Goode, 464 U.S. 78, 83 (1983) (per curiam) (citing Engle v.
Isaac, 457 U.S. 1141 (1982)) (additional citation omitted).
finality of a state agency’s decision is not such a
The May 11, 2017, decision of the Board is a final judgment
for the purposes of claim preclusion. See Brockton Power Co. LLC
v. Energy Facilities Siting Bd., 13 N.E.3d 955, 959 n. 8 (Mass.
2014) (explaining that a “final order of an administrative
agency in an adjudicatory proceeding” precludes relitigation of
the same issues by the same parties) (citation omitted).
Because this action and the state court action include
privity of parties and the same nucleus of operative fact and
because the state court action resulted in a final decision,
plaintiff’s claim is barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion.
2. Remaining factors
“In this circuit, proving likelihood of success on the
merits is the ‘sine qua non’ of a preliminary injunction.”
Arborjet, Inc. v. Rainbow Treecare Sci. Advancements, Inc., 794
F.3d 168, 173 (1st Cir. 2015) (citing New Comm Wireless Servs.,
Inc. v. SprintCom, Inc., 287 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2002)).
the moving party is unable to satisfy this requirement, “the
remaining factors become matters of idle curiosity.” New Comm,
287 F.3d at 9.
Plaintiff’s claim is barred by claim preclusion and
therefore his success is unlikely.
Accordingly, the Court
declines to analyze the remaining preliminary injunction
Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted will be allowed.
Motions to Intervene
There are currently five outstanding motions to intervene
filed by numerous patients of Dr. Padmanabhan.
Court will allow defendants’ motion to dismiss, it will deny the
motions to intervene as moot.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s second motion to
disqualify (Docket No. 54) is DENIED.
Defendants’ motion to
dismiss complaint (Docket No. 34) is ALLOWED.
The motions of
the putative intervenors to intervene (Docket Nos. 32, 33, 41,
48 & 60) are DENIED AS MOOT.
/s/ Nathaniel M. Gorton____
Nathaniel M. Gorton
United States District Judge
Dated November 29, 2017
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