The suspension of an upstate psychiatrist’s license was not a grossly disproportionate penalty after she argued with a stranger in a parking lot and scratched the stranger’s car with a key, a state appeals court has ruled.
Moreover, a related penalty, that psychiatrist Zeinab Elbaz be evaluated by a professional medical conduct committee to determine whether she should undergo a psychiatric evaluation herself, was also not disproportionate, decided a panel of the Appellate Division, Third Department.
Elbaz, who practices in Brentwood, New York, has fought professional penalties she has received after being convicted in 2013 of criminal mischief in the fourth degree for the car-scratching incident, according to the court.
In a unanimous opinion in Matter of Elbaz v. New York State Department of Health, 523548, the Third Department panel wrote that “considering all of the facts and circumstances of this case, we cannot say that the penalty [imposed by the Administrative Review Board for Professional Medical Conduct] is so disproportionate to petitioner’s offense as to shock one’s sense of fairness.”
Soon after Elbaz was convicted and given a sentence that included taking an anger management course, the state Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct charged her with professional misconduct. At an ensuing hearing, she repeatedly disrupted proceedings and challenged the validity of her conviction, despite being notified that the hearing was only about the nature and severity of a penalty to be imposed on her, wrote the panel, consisting of Justices William McCarthy, Michael Lynch, Robert Rose, Christine Clark and Stan Pritzker.
Ultimately, her medical license was suspended for a year, with the last six months stayed, and she was put on probation for two years, among other punishments.
Elbaz appealed to the Administrative Review Board, which affirmed the finding of misconduct, but modified the penalty by overturning the two-year period of probation and requesting an evaluation committee to determine whether she should have a psychiatric examination.
She appealed that ruling to the Third Department.
“The ARB’s penalty determination was properly based upon petitioner’s professional misconduct as well as her conduct at the hearing, as the latter was evidence of her refusal to accept responsibility for the actions resulting in her conviction,” the panel wrote. “We also agree with the ARB that petitioner’s conduct at the hearing established her continued inability to control her emotions, which directly related to her conviction and her profession as a psychiatrist.”
The justices added,“Even if we were to credit petitioner’s assertion that she completed her [criminal] sentence, we must agree with the ARB that such completion would not present any mitigation in light of her continued inability to control her emotions.”
Shaun Hogan of Hogan & Cassell in Jericho represented Elbaz. He declined to comment on Monday. The state Attorney General’s Office, which handled the appeal for the state, could not immediately be reached.