Argued: April 12, 2017
T. Mills, Attorney General, Thomas C. Bradley, Asst. Atty.
Gen., and Christopher C. Taub, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally),
Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellant
Department of Health and Human Services
Christopher C. Taintor, Esq. (orally), Norman, Hanson &
DeTroy, LLC, Portland, for appellee Stephen Doane
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
The Department of Health and Human Services appeals from a
summary judgment entered by the Superior Court (Kennebec
County, Murphy, J.) declaring that the District
Court-not the Department-has exclusive original jurisdiction
over the decision to terminate physician Steven Doane's
participation in, and reimbursement from, MaineCare and any
other medical assistance programs in Maine. The Department
argues that the court erred in concluding that a
provider's participation in MaineCare constitutes a
"license, " the revocation of which invokes
District Court jurisdiction. See 4 M.R.S.
§152(9) (2016); 5 M.R.S. §§ 8002(5), 10051(1)
(2016). We agree that jurisdiction did not lie in the
District Court, and we vacate the court's judgment.
The following undisputed facts are drawn from the record of
the proceedings in the Superior Court and the undisputed
statements of material facts presented on Doane's motion
for summary judgment. See Grant v. Foster Wheeler,
LLC, 2016 ME 85, ¶ 2, 140 A.3d 1242. Stephen Doane
is a physician licensed to practice in Maine by the Board of
Licensure in Medicine. That Board censured Doane in March
2015 for (1) being insufficiently aware of the hazards
associated with the opiate medications he was prescribing to
a patient who ultimately died of accidental oxycodone and
cyclobenzaprine intoxication, (2) failing to follow up on
information from other doctors about that patient, and (3)
violating a Board rule regarding the use of controlled
substances for pain treatment. The Board found that Doane had
not created a written treatment plan, discussed with the
patient the risks and benefits of using controlled
substances, implemented a written agreement outlining patient
responsibilities, or kept accurate and complete medical
records. The Board renewed his license, but it imposed terms
of probation and required him to pay $12, 000 to the Board
for the costs of investigation and enforcement.
In a letter dated April 9, 2015, the Department of Health and
Human Services informed Doane that it had decided to
terminate his participation in, or reimbursement from, the
MaineCare program. The Department stated that it took its
action pursuant to the MaineCare Benefits Manual, 14 C.M.R.
10 144 101-1-9, -26 to -28, §§ 1.03-6, 1.19-1 to -3
(2014), and the authority granted by the federal
government through 42 C.F.R. part 1002 (2016). Specifically,
the Department indicated that the sanction was being imposed
because Doane had violated the "regulations or code of
ethics governing the conduct of occupations or professions or
regulated industries, " had failed to "meet
standards required for State or Federal law for participation
(e.g. licensure or certification requirements), " and
had received a "[f]ormal reprimand or censure [from] an
association of the provider's peers for unethical
practices." 14 C.M.R. 10 144 101-1-26 to -27, §
1.19-1(M), (O), (R).
The letter informed Doane that he could request informal
review of the determination within sixty days after receiving
the letter and that if he disagreed with the result of that
review, he could request an administrative hearing within
sixty days after receiving the informal review decision.
See 14 C.M.R. 10 144 101-I-33 to -34, §1.21
(2013); see also 5 M.R.S. §§8001-11008
(2016). Doane requested informal review. The Department,
after informal review, affirmed the initial decision
terminating Doane's participation in MaineCare and
informed Doane, by letter dated September 11, 2015, of his
right to request an administrative hearing within sixty days.
On September 23, 2015, Doane filed a complaint in the
Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the
Department's decision terminating his participation in,
and reimbursement by, the MaineCare program constituted a
license revocation-a decision over which the District Court
has exclusive original jurisdiction. See 4 M.R.S.
§ 152(9); 5 M.R.S. §§8002(5), 10051(1); M.R.
Civ. P. 80G. He sought an order enjoining the progress of the
administrative proceeding to terminate his participation in
the programs. Doane also filed a request for an
administrative hearing with the Department on November 5,
2015, but he later filed a motion in the Superior Court
declaratory judgment proceeding seeking a preliminary
injunction enjoining the Department from utilizing the
administrative proceeding to revoke that alleged license.
The Department moved to dismiss Doane's declaratory
judgment complaint on the ground that no license had been
revoked but rather the Department had determined not to
contract with Doane. It referred to and attached Doane's
employer's provider agreement with the Department that
was in effect at the time of the events that led to
Doane's discipline by the Board of Licensure in Medicine.
The Department also attached a copy of the decision of the
Board of Licensure in Medicine allowing Doane to continue
practicing medicine in Maine.
Doane opposed the motion to dismiss and moved for summary
judgment, submitting a statement of material facts with
supporting evidence. The Department filed a responsive
statement of material facts admitting the pertinent facts and
additionally referring to the informal review decision.
The court entered a judgment on July 1, 2016, in which it
denied the Department's motion to dismiss and granted
Doane's motion for summary judgment, essentially
providing the declaratory relief sought by Doane. The court
concluded that the ability to provide and be reimbursed for
MaineCare patient treatment constituted a form of permission
that fell within the statutory definition of a
"license" provided in 4 M.R.S. § 152(9) and 5
M.R.S. § 8002(5), and therefore that the District Court
had exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate the Department's
proposed termination of Doane's participation in the
The Department timely appealed from the judgment.
See 14 M.R.S. §§ 1851, 5959 (2016); M.R.
App. P. 2. Upon inquiry from the court, Doane filed a letter
indicating that he did not intend to pursue the motion for
preliminary injunction at that time.
At the outset, we agree with the Superior Court that it had
the authority to rule on the legal dispute raised here.
"When a party seeks relief that is beyond the
jurisdiction of the administrative agency . . . and when it
would be futile for the plaintiffs to complete the
administrative appeal process [, ] the party need not exhaust
its administrative remedies before seeking judicial
relief." Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians v.
Boyce, 1997 ME 4, ¶ 11, 688 A.2d 908 (alterations
in original) (quotation marks omitted). Moreover, a
jurisdictional issue such as that raised here "may be
raised at any time in a proceeding." Ford Motor Co.
v. Darling's [Darling's I), 2014 ME 7, ¶
41, 86 A.3d 35. Accordingly, we review the court's
Summary Judgment and the Standard of Review
Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith" if
the supported statements of material facts "show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact set forth
in those statements and that any party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." M.R. Civ. P. 56(c). The
relevant facts are not in dispute, and we review the summary
judgment de novo for errors of law. Harlor v. Amica Mut.
Ins. Co., 2016 ME 161, ¶ 7, 150 A.3d 793.
We also review de novo whether a trial court has subject
matter jurisdiction. Midland Funding LLC v. Walton,
2017 ME 24, ¶ 12, 155 A.3d 864. Generally, court
jurisdiction is "strictly a function of statute."
Norris Family Assocs., LLC v. Town of Phippsburg,
2005 ME 102, ¶ 21, 879 A.2d 1007. Statutory
interpretation is also reviewed de novo. Carignan v.
Dumas, 2017 ME 15, ¶ 14, 154 A.3d 629.
In interpreting statutes, our primary objective is "to
discern and give effect to the Legislature's
intent." Ford Motor Co. v. Darling's
(Darling's II),2016 ME 171, ¶ 24, 151 A.3d 507
(quotation marks omitted). "To determine that intent, we
first look to the statute's plain meaning and the entire
statutory scheme of which the provision at issue forms a
part." Id. (quotation marks omitted). We
determine the plain meaning of a statute "by taking into
account the subject matter and purposes of the statute, and
the consequences of a particular interpretation."
Id. (quotation marks omitted). We will reject
statutory interpretations "that are inimical to the
public interest or that produce absurd or illogical
results." Id. (quotation marks omitted). Only
if the meaning of a statute is ambiguous after applying these
principles will we consider extrinsic ...