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Gonzales-blanco v. Clayton





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiffs appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County denying relief under their second amended complaint for administrative review, preliminary injunction and declarative relief. Plaintiffs, medical doctors, sought relief from the refusal of the Illinois Department of Registration and Education (hereinafter the Department) to issue plaintiffs temporary certificates of registration required for participation in residency training programs at Illinois hospitals. The issues raised by plaintiffs on appeal may be summarized as follows: (1) whether an administrative agency may apply its new rules retroactively so as to prevent plaintiffs from receiving temporary certificates; (2) whether the Department's rules and procedures were vague and arbitrary so as to violate plaintiffs' substantive due process; (3) whether the hearing held before the special master protected plaintiffs' right to procedural due process; (4) whether the Department's classification of plaintiffs' medical school and the alleged inconsistent application of its rules denied plaintiffs equal protection of the law and denied plaintiffs their privileges and immunities of national citizenship; (5) whether the Department's use of the reports of a private accreditation association constituted an impermissible delegation of authority; and (6) whether the Department's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence and was based upon concerns not stated in its rules.

On cross-appeal, defendant raises the issue of whether the circuit court erroneously invoked the doctrine of equitable estoppel to enjoin the Department to issue a temporary certificate of registration to one of the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs are nine doctors who attended the Universidad Central Del Caribe Escuela de Medicina de Cayey in Puerto Rico (hereinafter Del Caribe). Plaintiffs began their course of studies at Del Caribe in either the fall of 1976, January 1977 or September 1977. Each plaintiff graduated and received the degree of M.D. between June 1980 and December 1981. Each had been accepted into a residency training program at a Chicago area hospital including the residency program of defendant, Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center of Chicago. The residency appointments commenced in July 1981, with the exception of plaintiff Figueroa Sanchez who had been in Mount Sinai's training program since July 1980. Participation in the residency program was contingent upon plaintiffs' ability to obtain a temporary certificate of registration from defendant, the Illinois Department of Registration and Education (hereinafter the Department).

Plaintiffs began submitting applications for temporary certificates to the Department in April and May of 1981, except for Figueroa Sanchez who first submitted his application in April 1980 but did not complete the application until April 1981. Plaintiffs assert that all but two of the plaintiffs had completed their applications prior to July 1, 1981.

The Medical Practice Act provides that, "Persons holding the degree of Doctor of Medicine * * * who wish to pursue programs of graduate * * * training in this State, may receive without examination, in the discretion of the Department, a two-year Temporary Certificate of Registration." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 111, par. 4422.) An applicant is required to fulfill several requirements including that "he is or will be a graduate of a medical school or college reputable and in good standing in the judgment of the Department." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 111, par. 4422.) Under section 19 the Department is directed to make rules for establishing reasonable minimal standards of educational requirements to be observed by medical colleges and is further directed to determine the reputability and good standing of all schools. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 111, par. 4454.

Pursuant to this statutory mandate the Department promulgated a regulation which provided:


Medical colleges having rules and curricula commensurate with and equivalent to the rules and curricula of the College of Medicine of the University of Illinois, will be considered for accreditation by the Department of Registration and Education."

This rule was in effect from September 3, 1973, to July 1, 1981. In the spring of 1980 the Joint Committee of the Legislature recommended that the Department revise Rule I to incorporate standards and criteria by which to evaluate medical schools. There also was concern apparently that Rule I, as it existed, was unconstitutional. Indeed, Rule I was later declared unconstitutional as an impermissible delegation of authority to an outside body. St. George's University School of Medicine v. Department of Registration & Education (1982), 102 Ill. App.3d 1208 (Rule 23 order).

The record indicates that the procedure used to determine acceptability of an applicant's school under Rule I consisted of ascertaining whether that school was listed in a directory of American medical schools called The Directory of Residency Training Programs or, if a foreign school, in the directory of medical schools compiled by the World Health Organization. If the medical school attended by the applicant was listed in these directories, a temporary certificate of registration was issued.

The Directory of Residency Training Programs listed programs accredited by the Liason Committee on Medical Education (hereinafter LCME). LCME was created by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges for the accreditation of United States and Canadian schools. Del Caribe was listed in that directory.

Sometime in early 1980, the supervisor of the medical section of the Department became concerned about the quality of education received in new schools that were being formed in the Caribbean. Her concern was triggered by an article in a professional journal which was critical of these new proprietary schools. About this time she also saw a letter written by the Illinois medical school deans to Governor Thompson which advocated particular vigilance toward the credentials of Caribbean medical school graduates. Also, various newspaper articles dealing with these schools were circulated in the Department. The supervisor testified that she considered three schools to be in that category: St. George's, Domenic and American University of the Caribbean. Sometime in 1980, the supervisor instructed the medical section to hold all applications from graduates of Caribbean schools. Consequently, the clerk who handled applications set aside, and did not process, applications from graduates of Del Caribe.

In the latter part of 1980 the Department discontinued using the World Health Organization book for determining the respectability and good standing of foreign schools. Instead, the Department used a list of foreign schools whose graduates had become licensed physicians in Illinois. Two Puerto Rican ...

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