Dr. Jan Kippax talks with his attorneys, James Belleau and Adam Lee, far right, during a 2017 dental hearing. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

Dr. Jan Kippax, a Lewiston oral surgeon, argued in a court filing Tuesday that the Maine Board of Dental Practice is engaging in a vendetta against him.

For more than four years, a lawyer for the longtime dentist told the Kennebec County Superior Court, the panel “has pursued a relentless course to publicly tarnish” Kippax’s reputation in the eyes of the public.

Attorney James Belleau asked the court to throw out the reprimand levied against Kippax in March, expunge records related to the complaints the board examined and provide monetary relief to his client for the violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.

The state has not yet responded to Belleau’s brief. But the dental panel’s written decision to reprimand Kippax laid out its rationale for taking action in the case of a patient whose lip was disfigured in 2016 during what she thought would be a minor procedure.

The Auburn attorney hired by Kippax said in his brief that the oversight board has consistently shown its bias against his client and failed to apply the law properly to complaints brought against him.

Belleau said Kippax “once again has no other option to seek this court’s assistance in remedying the unfairness and injustice wrought by the board’s continued onslaught on his license” to practice dentistry in Maine.

Kippax, who was reprimanded in 2002, came under fire again in 2017 when 18 complaints against him were made public and his license was briefly suspended pending a hearing to determine his professional fate.

In the end, the board cleared him on every charge but only after it “successfully destroyed his reputation” in the wake of “unabated negative press coverage and the unquestioning broadcast of outlandish accusations,” Belleau said.

Belleau argued that perhaps the worst thing about Kippax’s ongoing saga with regulators is that the board’s “single-minded prosecution” of the cases “has resulted in a veritable hydra of new complaints,” including the one that led to his reprimand this year.

Lewiston oral surgeon Dr. Jan Kippax attends a hearing in 2017. Steve Collins/Sun Journal file photo

Patient A, as she is called in dental board records, would not have filed her complaint had she not read in the newspaper about others who claimed they had problems with Kippax.

In Belleau’s telling, the board wanted to avoid a repeat of its embarrassing failure in earlier cases, which fell apart when, during cross-examination by Belleau, the expert witness hired by the state reversed his opinion about Kippax’s alleged failure to follow the proper standards of care.

“Sheepishly, the board was forced to admit its staff had failed to prove a single violation” of the law during the 2017 hearing that closely examined five chosen cases from among the 18 complaints filed at the time, Belleau said.

This time around, according to Belleau, the board was “desperate not to see the case go the way of its previous failures” so it sought out an expert it could trust, the business partner of an oral surgeon serving on the regulatory panel, Dr. Mark Zajkowski.

Zajkowski did not sit in judgment on Kippax, however. His role in the case was to investigate Patient A’s complaint and assist the Attorney General’s Office in presenting the case to the five members of the board who acted more or less as judges.

Belleau pointed out, though, that two dentists serving on the board had referred patients to the expert on occasion. They said they would be impartial.

Whatever prejudice may or may not have existed in choosing Dr. Killian MacCarthy as an expert witness, his testimony offered at least conflicting information on Kippax’s handling of the patient.

Belleau said MacCarthy ultimately agreed that Kippax treatment of Patient A did not deviate from the required level of care.

That should have killed the case on the spot, he said, since the law mandates that expert testimony must establish that treatment fell short of what’s required.

The board’s written decision said MacCarthy agreed Kippax had fallen short of the standard of care required by a Maine oral surgeon.

But Belleau’s brief said that during the hearing, Dr. Stephen Morse, chairman of the board, said that at the end of his testimony MacCarthy “didn’t feel like it violated the standard of care.”

Belleau said the board was unfazed by the testimony it heard and “proceeded to make up its own standard of care: that being, ostensibly, if it’s a result the board thinks is bad, and it’s done by Dr. Kippax, it must deviate from the standard.”

“That discipline is constitutionally, statutorily and by all measures of fairness and justice, unacceptable,” Belleau said. “It is the product of bias and unlawful process.”

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