By Dave Andrusko
The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners today released a 24-page decision that, if possible, makes the legal situation surrounding abortionist Steven Brigham even more complicated. The current issue revolves about whether, as required, Brigham had truly given up control of the seven abortion clinics he operate in New Jersey. [Spoiler alert: the case is so confusing the board said a judge would have to decide who truly owned the clinics.]
That was made necessary because the board suspended Brigham’s license in 2010 and revoked it in 2014, a verdict Brigham has appealed. Brigham, who has been in and out of legal trouble for 25+ years, was found to have evaded state law by beginning late-term abortion in New Jersey and then completing them in Maryland. One woman almost died.
This bi-state evasion came about because Brigham’s Voorhees, New Jersey abortion clinic was not licensed or equipped to perform late-term abortions. “In addition,” as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marie McCullough wrote, “New Jersey requires that such risky surgeries be performed by an obstetrician-gynecologist, and Brigham, a general practitioner, was not credentialed to do them.”
At issue is whether Brigham had truly given over control of the clinics he owned in New Jersey, as required now that he had lost his medical license due to “gross negligence.”
The ruling today is that Brigham is still managing the seven clinics he used to own, which was, as Susan K. Livio of the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote, “at least a temporary victory for Vikram Kaji, the clinics’ long-time medical director who assumed ownership after the board revoked Brigham’s license in 2014. He had to divest himself from the business because the state requires medical practices to be owned by a physician.”
As we previously reported, Brigham said he had transferred control of the clinics to Kaji, a man with a highly suspect history of his own, most prominently for sexually abusing patients.
On April 22, when an investigator from the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs made an unannounced visit to the abortion clinic in Hamilton, Kaji denied he was the owner.
The following month Kaji testified at a N.J. Board of Medical Examiners’ hearing that he did not own those abortion facilities and that Brigham continued to “run the show.”
Why did Deputy Attorney General Bindi Merchant ask the board last June to immediately suspend or revoke the 79-year-old Kaji’s license for fraud? Because the transfer from Brigham to Kaji was a “sham,” according to a complaint.
“Merchant produced statements Kaji made to a state investigator in April and a committee of the board in May, denying he was the owner,” Livio wrote.
However Joseph Gorrell, the attorney for both Kaji and Brigham [!], challenged the case, Livio wrote,
producing records and new testimony from Kaji who he claimed was “confused” by the questions. No property had changed hands, and the business itself was losing money, so there was no actual sale, according to the decision.
Gorrell produced a contract that showed Kaji had hired Fidelity Venture Services, a management company owned by Brigham.
“He has absolutely no clinical responsibilities. He is acting as a manager which does not require a license,” Gorrell said. The management company was established long before the dispute, he added.
You get the sense that the board figuratively through up its hands in frustration. It “ultimately agreed that it could not move ahead on a decision about Kaji’s license under a summary judgment motion,” Livio wrote. “’There are material facts that are genuinely disputed,’ according to the decision.”
The physician disciplinary board said a judge ought to decide the true ownership of the clinics.