Buckwalter v. Nevada Board of Medical Examiners

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 04-26-2012
  • Case #: 11-15742
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judges B. Fletcher and Noonan
  • Full Text Opinion

When exercising its summary suspension powers, the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners is performing a function "comparable to a judicial act" and is afforded absolute immunity from liability.

Kevin Buckwalter is a licensed physician practicing in Nevada since 1997. In November 2008, after a formal complaint was filed accusing Buckwalter of overprescribing narcotic analgesics, the State of Nevada Board of Medical Examiners (“the Board”) determined Buckwalter posed an “imminent threat to the health and safety of his patients and the public in general,” and used its summary power to suspend Buckwalter’s ability to prescribe controlled substances. The Board notified Buckwalter of his suspension, effective immediately, and scheduled a full administrative hearing four months out. Buckwalter filed suit against the Board and its members under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the Board deprived him of his constitutional due process rights when it summarily suspended his privileges, and when it failed to provide a prompt post-deprivation hearing. The district court determined that the Board was entitled to absolute immunity and dismissed Buckwalter’s claims, and further determined that Younger abstention barred Buckwalter from bringing a case in federal court. The Ninth Circuit applied the “Butz factors” for determining absolute immunity. The Court held that under Butz, the Board’s exercise of its “summary suspension authority is comparable to a judicial act” and thus protected by absolute immunity. Further, the Court held that when the board members set Buckwalter’s hearing they were “acting within the scope of their judicial function” and were immune from any liability. Lastly, because the Board had not concluded its administrative process, Younger abstention applied and the district court was correct when it refused to hear claims for equitable relief. AFFIRMED.

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