Disciplinary Actions by State Professional Licensing Boards: Are They Fair?
This study examines 14,900 disciplinary actions by the professional licensing boards for attorneys, CPAs, and physicians in four states from 2008 through 2014. It was found that both attorneys and physicians are disciplined at a rate at least seven times that of CPAs. While the majority of disciplinary actions are for misconduct directly related to the professional practice, nearly 14% of sanctions were the result of “social crimes” such as failure to pay child support or student loans, driving under the influence, and general unprofessional conduct. The severity of licensure sanctions varied with the cause for discipline, but was inconsistent both within and between jurisdictions. These results raise important questions about the purpose and performance of state licensing boards and possible reasons for inequitable treatment. Additionally, the widespread and severe sanctions for conduct not related to the professional practice suggest that moral turpitude clauses may violate both equal protection and prohibitions on excessive fines.
KeywordsProfessional licensure Attorney CPA physician discipline Moral turpitude
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The author, Cynthia Krom, declares that she has no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights Statement
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
- ABA. (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009). Center for Professional Responsibility Survey on Lawyer Discipline Systems. www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/resources
- ABA (American Bar Association). (2016). The American Bar Association Mission. http://www.americanbar.org/about_the_aba/aba-mission-goals.html
- AICPA. (2016). An issue brief on state Marijuana laws and the CPA profession.Google Scholar
- AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). (2017). AICPA values and vision statement. www.aicpa.org/about/missionandhistory
- AMA (American Medical Association). (2016). Key ways AMA has invested in patients. https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-history
- Annual Discipline Report. (2015, 2011). San Francisco, CA: The State Bar of California.Google Scholar
- Annual Report Medical Board of California. (2014–2015, 2013–2014, 2012–2013, 2011–2012, 2010–2011, 2009–2010, and 2008–2009). Sacramento, CA: Medical Board of California.Google Scholar
- Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) of the Supreme Court of Illinois Annual Report. (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). Chicago, IL: ARDC.Google Scholar
- Carlson, D., & Thompson, J. N. (2005). The role of state medical boards. AMA Journal of Ethics: Virtual Mentor. http://journalofethics.amaassn.org/2005/04/pdf/pfor1-0504.pdf.
- Davis, M., & Johnston, J. (2009). Conflict of interest in four professions: A comparative analysis. In C. B. Lo & M. J. Field (Eds.), Conflict of interest in medical research, education and practice. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
- Dustin, D. (2012). Purpose and role of state boards of accountancy. www.nasba.org/features/the-purpose-and-role-of-state-boards-of-accountancy/
- Edwards, J. D. (1955). Public accounting in the United States 1896–1913. The Accounting Review, 30(2), 240–251.Google Scholar
- Hamowy, R. (1979). The early development of medical licensing laws in the United States 1875–1900. Journal of Libertarian Studies, 3(1), 73–119.Google Scholar
- IDPFR Consolidated Reports. (2008, January–2015, January). Chicago, IL: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.Google Scholar
- Jarvis, R. M. (1996). An anecdotal history of the bar exam. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 9, 359–412.Google Scholar
- Johnson, R. (2014). Prosecutors should consider collateral consequences. Criminal Law Practitioner, 2(Summer 2015), 83–86.Google Scholar
- Krom, C. (2016). Disciplinary actions by State Boards of Accountancy 2008–2014: Causes and outcomes. Accounting and the Public Interest, 16(1). Online first https://doi.org/10.2308/apin-51609.
- Langton, L., Berzofsky, M., Krebs, C., & Smiley-McDonald, H. (2012). Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006–2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
- Leichter, L. (2010). One rule to catch them all: licensing board’s use of unprofessional conduct. www.txmedicallicensinglaw.com
- Lingenfelter, G. J., & Johnson, J. B. (2007). Outside the profession: Should a CPA be disciplined for actions not directly related to public accounting? Southern Law Journal, 17, 17–26.Google Scholar
- Loeb, S. E. (1972). Enforcement of the code of ethics: A survey. The Accounting Review, 47(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
- Melli, M. (1990). Passing the bar: A brief history of bar exam standards. University of Wisconsin Law School Gargoyle, 21(1), 3–5.Google Scholar
- NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy). (2014). 2014 CPAs by State. Unpublished internal document supplied at author’s request.Google Scholar
- New York State Bar Association. (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). Committee on Professional Discipline 20XX Professional Discipline Report. www.nysba.org/copdannualreports/
- News. (2008 (January)–2014 (December)). Chicago, IL: Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.Google Scholar
- NYSED.gov. Office of the Professions Enforcement Actions “Search by Year and Month” search engine. www.op.nysed.gov/opd/rasearch.htm
- Physician Statistics. (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 (all September)). Austin, TX: Texas Medical Board. www.tmb.state.tx.us/showdoc/statistics
- Potter, D. (1996). A critical look at Texas’s License Suspension Act: Does the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause prohibit the revocation of professional licenses for nonpayment of child support? Baylor Law Review, 48, 493–506.Google Scholar
- Proceedings of the National Medical Conventions, held in the City of Philadelphia, in May 1847. (1847). The New York Journal of Medicine and the Collateral Sciences, IX, 92–121.Google Scholar
- Professional Misconduct and Physician Discipline. By Effective Date search engine. www.W3.health.state.ny.us/opmc/factions.nsf
- Saltzburg, S. A. (2014). Amending the uniform collateral consequence of conviction act. Criminal Law Practitioner, 2(Summer 2015), 31–42.Google Scholar
- State Physician Workforce Data Book. (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008). Washington, D. C.: Association of American Medical Colleges.Google Scholar
- Strong, D. E. (2011). Access to enforcement and disciplinary data: Information practices of state health professional regulatory boards of dentistry, medicine and nursing. Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 33(4), 534–570.Google Scholar
- Texas Bar Journal. (2008 (March)–2015 (March)). Austin, TX: State Bar of Texas.Google Scholar
- TMB Bulletin. (2008 (Spring)–2015 (Spring)). Austin, TX: Texas Medical Board.Google Scholar
- Update. (2008 (Spring)–2015 (Spring)). Sacramento, CA: California Board of Accountancy.Google Scholar