State [Government] Counsel (TN): Health Policy and Medical Professional Prosecutions


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There are many ways lawyers protect the public from wrongdoing. The lawsuit is one tool, but professional licensing boards also play a major role. Lawyers advise these boards on the creation of professional rules of conduct, and prosecute those who violate them.

In this episode, we talk to Vanderbilt Law School alumna Johanna Barde, a lawyer for the Tennessee Department of Health. In her capacity as assistant general counsel, Johanna creates public health policy -- researching and writing rules of conduct -- and prosecutes medical professionals during administrative hearings before state health boards. Her Department is part of the vast "administrative state" in the United States that runs parallel to the civil and criminal system.

For a medical professional, her property right -- a license -- is at stake during these hearings. When the government tries to take that right away, she's afforded due process. At the hearing, just like a trial, Johanna must litigate the facts and the law to persuade the decision-maker of her case. She subpoenas and interviews witnesses, makes opening and closing statements, argues rules of evidence and procedure, and ultimately wins or loses. The work can be repetitive and depressing, Johanna admits, but her colleagues and desire to protect the public health keep her motivated.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University.

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