Photo of Joanne R. Lax

Joanne R. Lax Member

Areas of Practice

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan, 1978


University of Michigan, J.D., magna cum laude

  • Order of the Coif

University of Michigan, A.B.

  • with high distinction
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Joanne Lax divides her practice between two major areas of the law—health care law and private adoptions and surrogacies.


Health Care Law Practice

Ms. Lax represents health systems, hospitals, prepaid in-patient health plans, nursing homes, homes for the aged, assisted living facilities, hospices and home health agencies regarding:

State and Federal Regulatory Compliance
  • Licensure and Certification
  • Medicare/Medicaid Conditions of Participation and provider enrollment
  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Civil Rights Regulations
  • Vulnerable Adult Abuse Act and Elder Justice Act
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the HITECH Act of 2009
  • Human Subject Research and Clinical Trials
  • Public Health and Mental Health Code facility licensure requirements
  • Medical Records Access and Retention
  • Facility Opening and Change of Ownership
  • Development and implementation of compliance plans
State and Federal Compliance-related Administrative Litigation and Hearings
  • Michigan Administrative Tribunal
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Departmental Appeals Board
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicare Appeals
  • Michigan Peer Review Organization quality review hearings
Patient Rights and Biomedical Ethics
  • Ethics committees and ethics case consultation
  • End of Life decision-making
  • Surrogate decision-makers
  • Medical privacy
  • Recipient rights
  • Minors and Legally Incapacitated
  • Emergency preparedness
Examples include:
  • Drafting a comprehensive Medicare compliance manual for a national health professional trade association
  • Drafting a comprehensive HIPAA compliance manual for a national health professional trade association
  • Defending nursing homes and nursing home professional staff against criminal charges of patient abuse/neglect
  • Defending nursing homes and hospitals, including psychiatric hospitals, against Medicare/Medicaid, EMTALA, and licensure deficiency citations, civil money penalties, ban on admissions, loss of license, imposition of temporary manager, denial of payment for new admissions, Medicare/Medicaid de-certification, special focus facility designation, or closure.
    • Informal meetings with MDCH and CMS
    • Drafting plans of correction and credible allegations of compliance
    • Drafting informal deficiency review requests
    • Administrative hearings - particularly the Departmental Appeals Board (DAB)
  • Defending nursing homes against Medicare recoupment of paid claims
  • Defending hospital clinical research programs against FDA investigations and deficiency citations
  • Serving as legal advisor to two hospitals' Ethics Committees and performing ethics case consultations
  • Serving as legal advisor to a mental health provider's Recipient Rights Advisory Board and Appeals Board
  • Drafting a hospital's emergency preparedness plan for allocating scarce clinical resources in an emergency or disaster

Private Adoptions and Surrogacy

Ms. Lax handles all aspects of adoption, surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology, including:

  • Newborn adoptions (within Michigan and interstate)
  • Intra-family adoptions
  • Guardian adoptions
  • Step-parent adoptions
  • Adult adoptions
  • Gestational surrogacies
  • Traditional surrogacies
  • Egg donations
  • Embryo "adoptions"
Examples include:
  • Representing birth parents, surrogate mothers, married and gay/lesbian adoptive couples, and single individuals in adoptions and surrogacies
  • Defending against adoption revocations, rehearings and appeals
  • Defending against birth father challenges to adoption
  • Involuntary termination of birth parent's parental rights due to child neglect or abuse and adoption fraud
  • Counseling adoption agencies about difficult adoption issues
  • Counseling hospitals about their adoption responsibilities, and drafting a comprehensive adoption and surrogacy compliance manual for a national hospital system
  • Defending adoption agencies against licensure deficiencies

Blog Posts

Memberships & Involvement

American Health Lawyers Association, Board of Directors (July 2016 – July 2019)

State Bar of Michigan, Member (1978 – Present)

State Bar of Michigan, Family Law Section, Adoption Law Subcommittee; Health Care Law Section, Council member (2005 – 2011), Chair (2009 – 2010), Chair-elect (2008 – 2009), Secretary (2007 – 2008); former Chair of the Provider subcommittee of the Substantive Law Committee; and former member of the Technology subcommittee of the Substantive Law Committee

LeadingAge Michigan, f/k/a Michigan Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Member (1990 – Present); Professional Development Committee (2004 – 2005)

LeadingAge, f/k/a American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Member (2005 – Present); Core Legal Committee (2006 – 2009) and (2011 – 2014)

American Health Lawyers Association, Member (1990 – Present); Post-Acute and Long Term Services (PALS practice group), Chair (2013 – 2016), Vice Chair (2008 – 2013); Advisory Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Member (2008 – Present); Mentoring Committee, Member (2010 – Present); Nominating Committee (2012 – 2013)

Medical Ethics Resource Network (2011)

Leader Dogs’ Client Programs and Services Committee, Member (2011 – 2015)

Recognized in Michigan Super Lawyers® for Health Care and Family Law, 2017-Present

Named "Lawyer of the Year" for Health Care Law by Best Lawyers®, 2012

Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® for Health Care Law, 2012-Present. Copyright 2015 by Woodward/White, Inc. Aiken, SC

Named a Michigan Leading Lawyer in the areas of Adoption & Reproductive Technology and Health Law by the Leading Lawyers Network, 2014-2018. Law Bulletin Publishing Company

Named a Top Lawyer by dbusiness Magazine for Heath Care Law, 2013, 2015

Recipient of an AV® Preeminent™ Rating by Martindale-Hubbell