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Wells Pharmacy Network, L.L.C. v. Iowa Board of Pharmacy

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

WELLS PHARMACY NETWORK, L.L.C. Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IOWA BOARD OF PHARMACY, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D. Rosenberg, Judge.

         A pharmacy appeals the district court's ruling dismissing its petition for immediate judicial review of an agency's procedural order prior to the scheduled contested case hearing.

          Michael M. Sellers of Sellers, Galenbeck & Nelson, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Meghan L. Gavin, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Danilson, C.J., McDonald, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, SENIOR JUDGE.

         This case involves the interplay of the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies and the statutory provision allowing immediate judicial review of a procedural order. An administrative procedural ruling is subject to immediate judicial review if two conditions are satisfied: "[1] all adequate administrative remedies have been exhausted and [2] review of the final agency action would not provide an adequate remedy." Iowa Code § 17A.19(1) (2015). Upon our review, we affirm the district court's dismissal of Florida-based Wells Pharmacy Network, L.L.C.'s petition seeking immediate judicial review of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy's procedural order prior to the scheduled contested case proceeding. See Salsbury Labs. v. Iowa Dep't of Enviorn Quality, 276 N.W.2d 830, 837 (Iowa 1979) ("Under section 17A.19(1), however, an inadequate administrative remedy still must be exhausted if judicial review from the final agency action is adequate. This test is not so easily met.").

         Agency Action.

         On November 4, 2015, the board commenced a contested case proceeding by issuing a "statement of charges and notice of hearing" against Wells. Wells responded with a "combined motion to dismiss and memorandum" as to the first four counts charged.[1] After conducting a hearing, the board's written ruling noted the "motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a challenged pleading, " addressed the pharmacy's challenge to each count in detail, and denied the motion.[2]

         Wells Petition for Judicial Review.

         Prior to the contested case hearing scheduled for March 2016, Wells sought immediate judicial review by filing a "petition for judicial review and request for stay." Wells alleged the board's "procedural order [is] reviewable under Iowa Code section 17A.19(1), " claiming it "should not be forced to proceed through a time-consuming and expensive fact finding process." Wells asked the district court to remand with directions for the board to grant its motion to dismiss the four charges.

         Board Motion to Dismiss Judicial Petition.

         In response, on February 18, 2016, the board filed a motion to dismiss the petition under the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies, which provides the pharmacy may obtain judicial review of agency action only after that action is officially sanctioned and thereafter reviewed within the agency to the fullest extent provided by law. See North River Ins. Co. v. Iowa Div. of Ins., 501 N.W.2d 542, 545 (Iowa 1993); see also City of Des Moines v. City Dev. Bd., 633 N.W.2d 305, 309 (Iowa 2001) (noting the doctrine "exists principally to prevent courts from interfering with the administrative process until it has been completed"). The board argued "Wells is essentially asking this court to grant [an] immediate judicial review of a procedural ruling, " and while there is a "narrow exception" to the statutory "requirement for final agency action, " the pharmacy's petition does not meet either of the requirements for "immediate review." See Pro Farmer Grain v. Iowa Dep't of Agric., 427 N.W.2d 466, 467 (Iowa 1988); Richards v. Iowa State Commerce Comm'n, 270 N.W.2d 616, 619 (Iowa 1978). The board concluded, if the district court finds Wells has made "a valid request for immediate judicial review, every prehearing order in a contested case would be subject to such review, undermining the entire administrative law scheme."

         Pharmacy Resistance to ...


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