A Kennebunk doctor is asking a judge to dismiss charges against her for illegally prescribing drugs, arguing the charges exceed federal prosecutors’ authority over medical professionals. The appeal comes just weeks after federal prosecutors filed seven new charges against her.

Merideth Norris, 52, was indicted in October on 10 counts of distribution of a controlled substance. Prosecutors this month upped that to 17 counts, tying in new patients whom they said she improperly prescribed opioids and other controlled substances.

Up until her arrest, Norris ran the Graceful Recovery addiction treatment center in Kennebunk, where she treated patients with chronic pain and those with substance use disorder.

She is scheduled for trial in December.

In a series of motions filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland, her attorneys, Timothy Zerillo and Amy Fairfield, argue that federal prosecutors are exceeding their authority and violating Norris’ right to due process by failing to give her “fair notice” that she was doing something illegal.

FBI special agent Dale Wengler wrote in an affidavit that Norris had the highest opioid prescribing rate in Maine. He said that several of her patients died of overdoses within 45 days of getting a prescription from her.


Zerillo and Fairfield argue that Wengler’s affidavit included false information and omitted facts in “reckless disregard” for the truth. The lawyers are asking the court to throw out all evidence obtained because of that affidavit.

“These motions are a small part of Dr. Norris’ continued and unequivocal denial of the charges that are pending against her,” the attorneys wrote in a statement Thursday. They said they were unable to speak about the case further because of court orders.

An expert witness in that affidavit also has resigned from the case.

A spokesperson for federal prosecutors declined to comment on Norris’ allegations.


Norris is still licensed by the Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure according to their website, and has been since July 2003. She is barred from prescribing controlled substances under her bail conditions while she awaits trial.


After Norris was arrested, medical leaders scrambled to help her hundreds of patients who were left without care.

Stefan Kertesz, an addiction medicine specialist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said Thursday that he worries prosecutors in cases like these are not weighing the interests of those patients, whose prescription needs are complex and likely unattractive to other doctors.

Kertesz is unfamiliar with the specifics of Norris’ case beyond news coverage but has followed others like it.

“Clinic closures often result in patients losing opioid pain medicines they have received long term,” he said. “Deaths by suicide and overdose are commonly associated with stoppage of pain medication.”

Kertesz expressed concern that prosecutors continue to disregard the risk to those patients.

“How many are dead now?” he said. “How many lost their doctor, deteriorated or are dead?”


The charges against Norris fall under the Controlled Substances Act, which bars anyone from manufacturing, distributing, dispensing or possessing illicit drugs.

Her attorneys say prosecutors are using an ambiguous law to create their own rules about how much doctors are allowed to prescribe, rather than leaving that up to state agencies charged with overseeing medical professionals.

The prosecutors are “substituting the DEA’s medical judgment for that of experienced practitioners,” they wrote.

The attorneys rely heavily on a U.S. Supreme Court order from June 2022 in which justices ordered the lower court to consider whether two doctors accused of illegal prescribing did so “knowingly or intentionally” and in a way that wasn’t consistent with their regular practice.

But even then there is “an intolerable ambiguity” for doctors trying to interpret what the law says is criminal activity, they said.

Noah Nesin, a doctor at Penobscot Community Health Center who promotes evidence-based treatment of chronic pain, said Thursday that while overprescribing is a problem in Maine, he believes oversight should be left to state boards unless there’s a clear public safety risk.


Nesin said he couldn’t comment on Norris’ case because he doesn’t know the details, but based on what’s been released, he said it’s unclear to those in the prescribing community whether Norris’ case merited charges.

“What I hope, as a prescriber and as a family doctor, is that the criminal justice system gets involved when there’s a true pill mill going on,” he said. “But in my experience, that’s not what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with people who don’t understand many of the safety issues around controlled substances prescribing, or don’t believe them but are practicing in good faith, and just need to expand their knowledge base.”


Criminal intent aside, Norris’ attorneys say the prosecutors’ case against her is erroneous.

The affidavit filed by Wengler, the FBI agent, alleged she was prescribing dangerously high doses of opioids, ignoring urine test results that showed patients were using illicit drugs, and performed unnecessary tests and then wrongfully billed Medicare and Medicaid.

But Norris’ attorneys say Wengler incorrectly wrote that the Maine Board of Osteopathic Licensure had “determined” she was overprescribing and violating patient treatment plans.


“Nothing was ‘determined’ by the board,'” the motion states, citing a letter Norris received from the board, notifying her they had received a complaint about her prescribing practices in June 2022. The letter informed Norris that the board was opening an investigation but mentioned no decisions – only that she had 30 days to respond. The board dismissed that complaint on Oct. 13, 2022, according to court records.

Norris’ attorneys point to another key element of Wengler’s affidavit, Dr. Shonali Saha, whom investigators paid to review Norris’ electronic medical records and prescribing data for select patients.

But following media coverage of Norris’ arrest, Saha asked to resign from the prosecution’s case, court records show. Saha did not respond to a call or email Thursday afternoon asking to discuss why she left the case.

The man prosecutors hired to replace Saha, Timothy King, is a regular expert for prosecutors in cases involving “pill mills, drug diversion and non-medical use of controlled substances” according to his website.

Norris’ attorneys already are raising questions about his analysis and are asking that he not be allowed to share certain testimony.

They say he compared Norris’ prescribing practices from 2020 to 2022 to other doctors’ data from at least 10 years ago. He also doesn’t distinguish her opiate prescriptions for pain management from her suboxone prescriptions, for substance use disorder, the attorneys say.

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