Mass. judge under fire over in-law's dental bill

An industrial accidents administrative judge in Massachusetts is being investigated by the State Ethics Commission over allegations that she tried to use her position to strong-arm a dental office into reducing her brother-in-law's bill.

The commission alleges that Administrative Judge Cheryl Jacques violated the state's conflict of interest law when she contacted a dental office on her brother-in-law's behalf and demanded that the dental office write off the balance of the bill received by her brother-in-law.

State law prohibits a state employee from using or attempting to use her official position to secure for herself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions that are of substantial value and which are not available to similarly situated individuals, the commission noted.

According to the commission, Jacques' brother-in-law received dental services from a dental office and received a bill for those services. Sometime in the fall of 2010, Jacques contacted the dental office on her brother-in-law's behalf and spoke to the office staff and the owner of the office. She identified herself as a judge to the office receptionist and as Judge Jacques to the owner, the commission alleges.

Jacques asserted that the dental office overcharged her brother-in-law for the services, and she demanded that the dental office write off the remaining balance of the bill, which was more than $1,000, according to the commission. Jacques claimed that the dental office had misled her brother-in-law because the dental office was not an in-network insurance provider under the brother-in-law's insurance plan.

When the dental office owner offered to write off a few hundred dollars of the bill, Jacques insisted that the owner write off the entire remaining balance. When the owner refused, Jacques threatened to contact the insurance company to have the dental office removed as a plan provider, and also to report the dental office to the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office, the commission alleges.

Jacques's attorney, Leonard Kesten, said his client's actions were appropriate and she would be vindicated after a commission hearing, according to a story in the Boston Globe. Kesten said Jacques had called the dentist's office because her brother-in-law, after being told he would be charged lower PPO rates, was charged the full rate instead by mistake and was having trouble settling the dispute.

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