May 24, 2019

Application for a professional license denied based on a finding that the applicant lacked "good moral character"


New York State's Education Law §8405[3][f] requires that an applicant for a New York State psychoanalyst license must "[b]e of good moral character."

In this CPLR Article 78 action, an applicant [Petitioner] for "licensure as a psychoanalyst" challenged the rejection of his application based on the New York State Department of Education's [SDE] determination that Petitioner "lacked good moral character." Supreme Court transferred the Article 78 action to the Appellate Division.*

The Appellate Division's decision indicates that Petitioner had been licensed as a social worker by SDE in 1984 and subsequently was a licensed clinical social worker [LCSW] in several other states. At the time Petitioner applied for a New York State psychoanalyst license he was living in another state and held a LCSW a license issued by the state in which he then resided.

The reasons advanced by SDE in support of its decision to deny Petitioner "licensure as a psychoanalyst" included the following:

[a]  In 2003 Petitioner pleaded guilty in Rockland County Court to grand larceny in the third degree in full satisfaction of multiple charges pertaining to false billings submitted to a private insurance company during the period June 1999 to August 2001 and his New York license was suspended for one year;

[b] In 2005 Petitioner pleaded guilty, again in Rockland County Court, to two counts of grand larceny in the second degree, admitting that he filed false claims with the state and federal Medicaid programs and was allowed to surrender his New York license;** and

[c] Following testimony from Petitioner and several witnesses on his behalf, the SDE Hearing Panel determined that Petitioner did not meet the moral character requirement and that the application should be denied, which decision was sustained by SDE's Committee on the Professions.

 The Appellate Division observed that:

[1] "[W]hether an applicant seeking professional licensure has demonstrated "good moral character" is to be determined by the appropriate body and if "made after an evidentiary hearing", the determination will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence;"*** and

[2]  §752 of the Correction Law provides that a license application shall not "be denied or acted upon adversely by reason of the individual's having been previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses, or by reason of a finding of lack of 'good moral character' when such finding is based upon [the prior convictions], unless: (1) there is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the specific license ... sought ...; or (2) the issuance ... of the license ... would involve an unreasonable ... to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public."

Noting that the parties agreed that the above cited standard applied here, at issue was SDE's determination that both exceptions have been established, i.e., that [1] there is a direct relationship between Petitioner's convictions and the work of a psychoanalyst and [2] that the issuance of a license to Petitioner would present an unreasonable risk to the safety and welfare of the public. 

Although Petitioner contended that SDE failed to consider the specific factors outlined in Correction Law §753 in making this determination, the Appellate Division said that its review of the record "shows otherwise" in that SDE "reasonably determined that Petitioner's improper billing practices as an LCSW were directly relevant to the same responsibilities that he would have to his clients and the involved insurers as a licensed psychoanalyst."

The decision also notes that Petitioner receive a certificate of relief from disabilities for his first conviction as provided by Correction Law §753[2]) but Petitioner's other convictions came two years later.

In consideration of the records before it, the Appellate Division found that the determination denying Petitioner's license application was supported by substantial evidence.

* CPLR §7804[g], in relevant part, provides that Supreme Court shall transfer an Article 78 action to the Appellate Division in the event an administrative determination required by law was after a hearing at which evidence was taken.

.** The decision notes that Petitioner retained his LCSW license issued by another state "under supervision".  

*** Substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant proof as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion or ultimate fact."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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