A California Superior Court judge ordered the state’s Board of Psychology to reinstate the license of a Sonoma psychologist accused by a woman diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder of altering her prescription for psychotropic drugs.
Frank J. Lucchetti, Ed.D., said his experience with the board “was a living nightmare” in which the word of a disgruntled patient was taken over his.
Lucchetti lost his license in May 2004 when the board found that he had illegally dispensed drugs for one patient and changed the prescription for another. The Superior Court judge ordered the board to reinstate Lucchetti’s license after he found the woman’s charges not credible. The judge also ordered the board to wipe out a $48,000 fine it had imposed to cover the cost of the investigation.
The Sonoma psychologist, a native of Italy, said the judge based his decision on the transcript of an administrative law court hearing in which the woman, on 24 occasions, was unable to say how he had changed her prescription. Lucchetti had denied all along that he had changed her prescription.
He added that the board also brought up an earlier charge, which had been dismissed, that he had given two samples of drugs to a patient. Starting with that charge, for which Lucchetti was forced to stop his practice for 10 months, he has been clashing with the board for six years.
Among his clients were 72 vineyard and farm workers who speak only Spanish. Lucchetti, 57, also speaks Spanish and much of his practice is devoted to handling psychological issues related to workers’ compensation claims.
Lucchetti said he thinks he was targeted for investigation by the board because he holds certification in pharmacology training from the Prescribing Psychologists’ Register, an early continuing education program.
Lucchetti’s case is not the first one in which a superior court has ordered the California Board of Psychology to reinstate a license to a psychologist. In a more celebrated case in the late ’90’s Donald Crowe, Ph.D., of Oakland, spent nine years and $500,000 to win back his license. Crowe and his wife lived on a rickety sailboat for years to save rent money so they could pursue their case in court.
In that case, the Superior Court of Alameda County overturned the decisions of the Board of Psychology three times, charging it with abuse of its discretion. The Crowe case resulted in a legislative investigation at a time when the board was about to sunset. The legislature expressed its displeasure with the board’s tactics, but renewed the life of the board by taking no formal action.
Robert Sullivan, the attorney who represented both Crowe and Lucchetti, said, “The investigation of the case by the board was poor and the board ignored exculpatory evidence that we gave them and proceeded nonetheless. Many thousands of dollars in income and legal fees later, the board did what should have been done long ago.”
The board declined to comment on the Lucchetti case.