Court suspends Heaps’ medical license for duration of criminal sexual assault case
James Heaps (left) and attorney Tracy Green (right) appeared in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. During the hearing, Heaps’ medical license was suspended. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)
The Los Angeles Superior Court suspended former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist James Heaps’ medical license in a court hearing July 30.
The interim suspension against Heaps will last for the duration of the criminal sexual assault case against him.
Heaps faces two counts of sexual battery and one count of sexual exploitation by a physician in a criminal case involving two former patients Heaps treated in 2017 and 2018. At least 10 civil suits accusing Heaps of sexual assault have been filed since the criminal suit, three of which were filed this week, said Darren Kavinoky, an attorney for several alleged victims involved in the civil suits. Heaps denies all charges.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Roberts filed the request to suspend Heaps’ medical license on behalf of the Medical Board of California in late June during the first hearing for the sexual battery allegations against Heaps.
“(The) Defendant, if allowed to act as a physician and surgeon without restriction during the pendency of these proceedings, poses a potential danger to the public, ” Roberts wrote on behalf of the board in the request dated June 25.
The request comes over a year after the UCLA Title IX investigation into Heaps’ practice concluded Heaps violated university policies on sexual violence and harassment by retaliating against a person involved in the investigation.
The investigation also shows that allegations against Heaps stretch back to 2014, but the university deferred the decision on whether Heaps sexually harassed or abused a patient to its Medical Staff. The university later filed a formal complaint with the Medical Board of California.
Tracy Green, an attorney for Heaps, said since Heaps has retired, he does not actively practice medicine anymore, so the license suspension is redundant. However, Green said given the ongoing litigation surrounding Heaps, she does not want him to see any patients for now.
“That way, no one can say, ‘Well, he could go practice,’” Green said. “There should be no concern. He hasn’t been practicing the last year either.”
Kavinoky said he was grateful for the attorney general’s office’s help in suspending Heaps’ license.
“If only UCLA were to have acted this promptly, women would have been spared,” Kavinoky said. “It’s clear UCLA knew or should have known there was a problem long before they actually acted.”
Heaps announced his retirement last year after the university informed him that it would not renew his contract in June 2018. Heaps’ license expires at the end of October regardless of the suspension, but Green did not specify whether Heaps would renew it.
“It is not an admission of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” Leonard Levine, an attorney representing Heaps, said about the decision. Levine also represented George Tyndall, the former USC gynecologist who was ordered to pay $215 million in damages for sexual assault and faces 29 sexual abuse felonies according to court documents.
Carlos Villatoro, a representative for the medical board, declined to comment on the request, citing an ongoing confidential investigation into the matter. However, Villatoro emphasized that the board petitions the courts for action only after finding sufficient evidence against the physician in question, though they did not specify what qualifies as sufficient evidence.
Green accused the board and UCLA of mishandling the investigations into allegations against Heaps. Green claimed that UCLA’s internal Title IX investigation was inherently structured to be unfavorable to Heaps because he had to continue working with someone who had participated in the investigation without his knowledge that they had done so. Title IX guidelines bar the accused from talking about the investigation with UCLA faculty.
Kavinoky and fellow attorney Jennifer McGrath plan to file several more civil lawsuits on behalf of alleged victims in the coming weeks.
Heaps’ third preliminary hearing will be held at Department W31 in the Airport Courthouse on August 29.