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Rudick v. State Board of Optometry

California Court of Appeals, First District, Third Division

October 11, 2019

ANTHONY RUDICK et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
STATE BOARD OF OPTOMETRY, Defendant and Respondent.

          Superior Court of Alameda County No. RG13708526 Trial Judge: Michael M. Markman, J.

          Law Offices of Craig S. Steinberg and Craig S. Steinberg for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

          Center for Legal Affairs, Francisco J. Silva and Long X. Do for California Medical Association as Amicus Curiæ on behalf of Plaintiffs and Appellants.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Linda Schneider, Assistant Attorney General, Diann Sokoloff and Gregory Tuss, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent.

          Wick, J. [*]

         This is an appeal from judgment after the trial court denied the petition for writ of mandate filed by plaintiffs Anthony Rudick, O.D., and Ridge Eye Care, Inc. (Ridge) and granted summary judgment in favor of defendant State Board of Optometry (Board) and against plaintiffs on their related complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. On appeal, plaintiffs seek reversal of the judgment and entry of an order directing the trial court to find in their favor on the ground that the trial court erroneously interpreted the applicable statutory law. We affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 23, 2013, plaintiffs filed a combined verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Board challenging its denial of an application for a statement of licensure submitted by Rudick.[1] Plaintiffs' challenge arises from the following set of undisputed facts.

         Rudick is a licensed optometrist with his principal place of practice in the Town of Paradise. Rudick is also a 49-percent owner, director, and the vice-president of Ridge. Ridge, a “medical corporation” under the Moscone-Knox Professional Corporation Act (Moscone-Knox) (Corp. Code, § 13400 et seq.), has four office locations, including in the towns of Paradise and Magalia. Joel Isaac Barthelow, M.D., a licensed physician who practices ophthalmology, is the majority owner, president, and a director of Ridge. Ridge employs both ophthalmologists and optometrists to provide a broad range of professional eye care services to its patients. More specifically, Ridge employs optometrists (one of whom is Rudick) at each of its four locations, who practice optometry as defined by Business and Professions Code section 3041.[2] While the practices of ophthalmology and optometry overlap in certain regards, there are critical differences, including the fact that only ophthalmologists and not optometrists are authorized to perform surgery and to prescribe certain medications.[3] (See, e.g., §§ 3041, 2052.) In addition, ophthalmologists, unlike optometrists, may treat conditions beyond the eye and its immediately surrounding tissues.

         In November 2011, Rudick submitted an application for statement of licensure with the requisite fees to the Board for Ridge's Magalia location, identifying himself as the employer of the Magalia location and the Town of Paradise as his principal place of practice. On April 25, 2012, the Board denied Rudick's application. In its letter of denial, the Board explained: “Your application for Statement of Licensure was rejected because you list yourself as the principal employer at the location. In your letter you state that you are 49% shareholder in the business. Per BPC [section] 3077 you need to submit a Branch Office License application if you have a financial interest in that location.” Rudick and Ridge thereafter brought this lawsuit to challenge the Board's decision.

         On January 28, 2016, the trial court denied plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate, finding “[i]t is reasonable for the Board to deny the request for a Statement of Licensure when the applicant for the Statement of Licensure is required to obtain a Branch Office License, as otherwise the applicant could be disinclined to obtain the required Branch Office License.” The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' complaint, which were heard on February 14, 2017

         On March 20, 2017, the trial court granted the Board's motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs' motion for the same, finding that the Board properly determined Rudick must comply with the branch office licensing requirements in section 3077 for his practice at Ridge's Magalia office since his principal place of practice was in Paradise. Judgment was thus entered in favor of the Board and against plaintiffs on June 14, 2017, prompting this appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         This lawsuit arises out of the licensing application submitted by Rudick to the Board with respect to his practice of optometry at a location other than his principal place of practice, specifically, at Ridge's Magalia location. In California, the practice of optometry is governed by the Optometry Practice Act (Act) (§ 3000 et seq.). The Board is the state agency charged with enforcing the Act. (§ 3010.5.) On appeal, we are asked to address two issues relating to the proper interpretation of two of the Act's provisions, sections 3070 and 3077.[4] First, we must decide whether the trial court properly ruled in favor of the Board and against plaintiffs on summary judgment after upholding the Board's decision not to issue Rudick a statement of licensure under section 3070 and to instead require him to obtain a branch office license under section 3077 for his practice at the Magalia location or face disciplinary action. Second, we turn to whether the trial court properly denied plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate after finding the Board had no mandatory duty under section 3070 to issue Rudick a statement of licensure upon receipt of his application and the applicable fees.

         The parties agree both issues before the court are purely legal issues and are therefore subject to de novo review. (Imperial Merchant Services, Inc. v. Hunt (2009) 47 Cal.4th 381, 387.) Accordingly, we apply the following rules. “Under settled canons of statutory construction, in construing a statute we ascertain the Legislature's intent in order to effectuate the law's purpose. [Citation.] We must look to the statute's words and give them ‘their usual and ordinary meaning.' [Citation.] ‘The statute's plain meaning controls the court's interpretation unless its words are ambiguous.' [Citations.] ‘If the statutory language permits more ...


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