A Hope physician who is the only subject statewide of a law limiting Medicaid practice eligibility because he is a registered sex offender has stopped the prosecution of a federal lawsuit to overturn the statute.
A Hope physician who is the only subject statewide of a law limiting Medicaid practice eligibility because he is a registered sex offender has stopped the prosecution of a federal lawsuit to overturn the statute. In a Dec. 5 stipulated filing in federal court in Little Rock, John Hardy, the attorney for Dr. Lonnie Parker, and attorneys for the Arkansas Department of Human Services agreed to the dismissal “without prejudice.” Federal District Judge Billy Roy Wilson accepted the stipulated dismissal in a text order entered on the docket on Dec. 9. The dismissal “without prejudice” allows Parker one year in which he may refile the lawsuit, should he so desire, according to Hardy. “We dismissed without prejudice because we realized we weren't going to get anywhere with Judge Wilson,” Hardy said. Hardy said Wilson's reasoning in denying a motion for a temporary injunction to stay enforcement of the new law, Act 1504, until the merits of the lawsuit were resolved played a role in the decision to dismiss at this juncture. Wilson, in a November decision, admits that he weighted his decision based upon issues outside of the original issue in the lawsuit because he did not want Parker to practice medicine involving children. “Because State authorities have classified Parker as a Level 1 sex offender and have given him a license to practice medicine, at first blush, it appears that a federal district judge should defer to state authorities, which is the usual practice,” Wilson wrote. “After considerable reflection, however, I cannot agree with this classification. The nature of some of his child pornographic photos and the fact that he would be working with young children if his motion were granted is too strong for me.” However, despite Act 1504, Parker remains free to practice pediatric medicine in Arkansas, but is not eligible to engage in practice under Medicaid in Arkansas. Parker, who was convicted in Arkansas in 2000 of possessing child pornography and was sentenced to federal prison, then required to register as a Level 1 sex offender in Arkansas, indicating he had no prior history of such offenses, is the only doctor in Arkansas affected by Act 1504, which passed in the 2013 legislative session. Parker had his medical license to practice in Arkansas restored by the Arkansas Medical Board in 2005, and he has maintained he is innocent, and contended at original trial and on appeal that he was acting in concert with federal authorities in receiving and possessing certain child pornography images via e-mail. “If, in the future, we can somehow show Joseph's innocence, we are free to refile, but not in federal court,” Hardy said. He said any new filing in federal court would necessarily be heard by Wilson. “He is locked into his position on the constitutional issues,” Hardy said, but he did not preclude a state court lawsuit. “For all of the same constitutional reasons, I feel like we have a state constitutional issue,” he said. He said he was uncertain when Parker would decide whether to seek a new hearing of the case.