Mike Tonos 3/16/09
Web sites for information for filing complaints and disciplinary action taken:
Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure http://www.msbml.state.ms.us/
State of Mississippi Judiciary http://www.mssc.state.ms.us/
The Mississippi Bar Association http://www.msbar.org/index.php
By TIM DOHERTY
The Hattiesburg American
HATTIESBURG (AP) — Can you find out on the Internet if any serious disciplinary actions have been taken against your doctor or lawyer? In Mississippi, the answers are yes — and sort of.
For physicians, decisions can be found on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure’s Web site by sifting through reports of board’s monthly disciplinary actions.
For lawyers, any public disciplinary decisions would be available in scanty detail from the online docket of the Mississippi Supreme Court, unless the action arrived at the court on appeal.
In those cases, the court’s official opinion would be on its Web site.
The Mississippi Bar Association is the starting point for complaints against attorneys, and the bar does not have a computer database listing disciplinary action taken against members.
“The answer, at present, is no,” said Adam Kilgore, general counsel for the Mississippi Bar. “There is nothing on our Web site that would enable a member of the public to see where a particular attorney has been disciplined.”
Kilgore said the association plans to upgrade its Web site, and such a list might be considered.
“It could be a situation where we just decide to do it,” Kilgore said. “Our number one priority is to protect the public.”
Disciplinary actions for the two professions were among 20 public-record categories examined in all 50 states for the Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information Online.
The project was sponsored by Sunshine Week, American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Freedom of Information Committee, National Freedom of Information Coalition and Society of Professional Journalists’ FOI Committee.
“Digital technologies can be a great catalyst for democracy, but the state of access today is quite uneven,” said Charles N. Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
“The future of freedom of information is online access, and states have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of electronic self-governance.”
Mississippi ranked last in the nation for online information, with postings in just a handful of the 20 categories.
When it comes to discovering disciplinary action taken for either doctors or lawyers, only public results are published.
“We wouldn’t post a complaint unless it ended with board acting upon it,” said Dr. H. Vann Craig, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure. “Then, that disciplinary action would be on our Web site.”
A private rebuke would not be posted; neither would a malpractice suit.
“Getting sued does not necessarily mean you’re a bad doctor,” Craig said. “That is not a good yardstick to use.”
What can be found is information about doctors who have had their licenses suspended or restrictions placed on the breadth of their practice.
“Transparency is important, and I believe most physicians are to a certain extent,” Craig said. “The best way, if you want to know something about your physician, ask them.”
Lawyers are investigated, if warranted, by The Bar’s Committee of Professional Responsibility. If the committee files a formal complaint, a three-person Complaint Tribunal receives the information.
Rulings can include dismissing the complaint and a private reprimand. More serious disciplinary action can range from a public reprimand to suspension to disbarment.
Only those last three areas are available for public consumption.