When the state of Florida faced litigation over its award of rights to open new methadone clinics, it turned to a Dean Mead regulatory attorney to defend its decisions. In the end, Dean Mead successfully defended every award at issue. This was a good example of how parties on both sides of disputes such as bid protests, certificate of need, and other related actions respect the skill and knowledge of Dean Mead attorneys, who draw on their past experience working inside Florida regulatory agencies.
In 2019, the state Department of Children and Families determined that 42 new methadone-medication assisted treatment clinics were needed throughout the state. The Department received more than 200 applications from various companies to open those clinics. Licenses were awarded based on a point system that took into account how well the clinics would serve the public and the safety of treatment. While the clinics are businesses, they also provide a critical service that helps to stem the tide of opioid addiction that claims thousands of lives in Florida each year.
William D. Hall III, the attorney in Dean Mead’s Tallahassee office who represented the state in the methadone clinic litigation, says it doesn’t pick favorites in licensing the clinics, and only wants to ensure that operators are capable of offering safe and accessible treatment. Still, he acknowledges that picking winners inevitably leads to disputes and litigation.
The state faced challenges from rejected bidders on various grounds throughout 2020 and into this year. In one case, the point evaluation ended in a tie for two bidders. The state broke the tie by picking one bidder, which prompted an appeal by the rejected bidder. Other bidders challenged their scores, arguing that the assessments shortchanged their capabilities. Following the award of new licenses, there were almost 50 initial challenges. Later in the process, another rejected bidder challenged the entire scoring process for selecting applicants.
Hall understands the regulatory arena and related litigation with the perspective of someone who once helped make the rules and enforce them. He served as chief attorney for the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering within the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, where he was lead counsel on administrative hearings and appeals, and helped draft rules and regulations. That experience translates into a broad understanding of the regulatory and dispute resolution process for all industries and professions. Since leaving the state, Hall has represented a number of both public and private parties in bid disputes and other litigation relating to competitive state selections.
Dean Mead successfully defended the Department’s intended award in each and every one of these challenges. The vast majority were dismissed before a hearing was held. However, two challenges to specific awards proceeded to a final administrative hearing, and the administrative law judge sided with the Department’s decision on both. Further, another judge upheld the Department’s scoring/selection methodology as a reasonable and legal means of selecting which applicant should receive a license.
While methadone clinics represent just one small sliver of the industries regulated by the state, this engagement demonstrates Dean Mead’s wide scope of capabilities to handle litigation and disputes involving state agencies and the industries they regulate. Dean Mead’s administrative law practice represents clients in a wide range of matters, including other forms of health care licensing, marijuana dispensaries, gaming, alcoholic beverage issues, and many other industries and professions that fall under state rulemaking. This includes representing private entities seeking or applying for limited licenses from the state (much like in the methadone litigation). Along with Dean Mead’s government relations and business litigation groups, the firm’s administrative law practice ensures that clients have strong representation in the oft-contentious state processes that set up the rules for doing business and in ensuring a level playing field for all regulated businesses.