Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A judge Friday refused to suspend the medical licenses of two doctors facing trial on drug charges linked to the 2007 death of Anna Nicole Smith.
The Medical Board of California should have asked for the suspension earlier and not eight months after Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor were first charged, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Wesley said.
Smith's boyfriend Howard K. Stern and the two doctors face 23 felony charges, including three counts of conspiracy to dispense and administer controlled substances to a known addict.
The three also are accused of conspiring to use false names to obtain drugs for Smith, a practice defense attorneys argued was intended to protect the celebrity's privacy.
The defendants, who are out on bond, entered not guilty pleas on all charges in an arraignment Friday. A trial date has been set for February, although it is expected to be pushed back to later next year.
Smith died February 8, 2007, from what a Florida medical examiner ruled was "acute combined drug intoxication."
At the arraignment, a lawyer from the state attorney general's office, E. A. Jones III -- representing the medical board -- argued that the judge should order the doctors to stop practicing medicine and surrender their prescription forms until the trial's completion.
The medical board's motion contended an October ruling finding "probable cause" for the doctors to be held for trial was justification for their licenses to be suspended.
Wesley said, however, the burden of proof for suspending a medical license is "clear and convincing evidence" -- a higher standard.
"They've not been convicted," the judge said.
He also grilled Jones about why the medical board waited nearly three years into the investigation -- eight months after charges were filed -- to argue the doctors were an immediate threat to public health.
"We did not want to interfere with the district attorney's case," Jones said.
The judge also questioned the board's failure to take lesser steps against the doctors if they were believed to be a danger to the public.
He said he was troubled the board was not monitoring the doctors.
"I cannot believe the medical board doesn't have the ability to monitor doctors," Wesley said. "That's their job."