348 U.S. 483 (1955), 184, Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 184
Citation:348 U.S. 483, 75 S.Ct. 461, 99 L.Ed. 563
Party Name:Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc.
Case Date:March 28, 1955
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 483

348 U.S. 483 (1955)

75 S.Ct. 461, 99 L.Ed. 563

Williamson

v.

Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc.

No. 184

United States Supreme Court

March 28, 1955

Argued March 2, 1955

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA

Syllabus

1. Provisions of an Oklahoma statute making it unlawful for any person not a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist to fit lenses to a face or to duplicate or replace into frames lenses or other optical appliances except upon written prescriptive authority of an Oklahoma licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist, are not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337. Pp. 484-488.

2. To subject opticians to this regulatory system while exempting all sellers of ready-to-wear glasses does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 488-489.

3. A provision making it unlawful to solicit the sale of frames, mountings or any other optical appliances does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 489-490.

4. A provision forbidding any retail merchandiser to rent space, sub-lease departments, or otherwise permit any person "purporting to do eye examination or visual care" to occupy space in a retail store does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 490-491.

5. A provision making it unlawful to solicit the sale of spectacles, eyeglasses, lenses and prisms by the use of advertising media is constitutional. P. 491.

120 F.Supp. 128, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

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DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

[75 S.Ct. 463] MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This suit was instituted in the District Court to have an Oklahoma law, 59 Okl.Stat.Ann. §§ 941-947, Okl.Laws 1953, c. 13, §§ 1-8, declared unconstitutional and to enjoin state officials from enforcing it, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, 2281, for the reason that it allegedly violated various provisions of the Federal Constitution. The matter was heard by a District Court of three judges,

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as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2281. That court held certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 120 F.Supp. 128. The case is here by appeal, 28 U.S.C. § 1253.

The District Court held unconstitutional portions of three sections of the Act. First, it held invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment the portions of § 2 which make it unlawful for any person not a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist to fit lenses to a face or to duplicate or replace into frames lenses or other optical appliances, except upon written prescriptive authority of an Oklahoma licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.1

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An ophthalmologist is a duly licensed physician who specializes in the care of the eyes. An optometrist examines eyes for refractive error, recognizes (but does not treat) diseases of the eye, and fills prescriptions for eyeglasses. The optician is an artisan qualified to grind lenses, fill prescriptions, and fit frames.

The effect of § 2 is to forbid the optician from fitting or duplicating lenses without a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. In practical effect, it means that no optician can fit old glasses into new frames or supply a lens, whether it be a new lens or one to duplicate a lost or broken lens, without a prescription. The District Court conceded that it was in the competence of the police power of a State to regulate the examination of the eyes. But it rebelled at the notion that a State could require a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist "to take old lenses and place them in new frames and then fit the completed spectacles to the face of the eyeglass wearer." 120 F.Supp. at page 135. It held that such a requirement was not "reasonably and rationally related to the health and welfare of the people." Id. at 136. The court found that, through mechanical devices and ordinary skills, the optician could take a [75 S.Ct. 464] broken lens or a fragment thereof, measure its power, and reduce it to prescriptive terms. The court held that,

Although, on this precise issue of duplication, the legislature in the instant regulation was dealing with a matter of public interest, the particular means chosen are neither reasonably necessary nor reasonably related to the end sought to be achieved.

Id. at 137. It was, accordingly, the opinion of the court that this provision of the law violated the Due Process Clause by arbitrarily interfering with the optician's right to do business.

We think the due process question is answered in principle by Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337, which upheld a

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New York statute making it unlawful to sell eyeglasses at retail in any store unless a duly licensed physician or optometrist were in charge and in personal attendance. The Court said,

. . . wherever the requirements of the act stop, there can be no doubt that the presence and superintendence of the specialist tend to diminish an evil.

Id., at 339.

The Oklahoma law may exact a needless, wasteful requirement in many cases. But it is for the legislature, not the courts, to balance the advantages and disadvantages of the new requirement. It appears that, in many cases, the optician can easily supply the new frames or new lenses without reference to the old written prescription. It also appears that many written prescriptions contain no directive data in regard to fitting spectacles to the face. But in some cases the directions contained in the prescription are essential if the glasses are to be fitted so as to correct the particular defects of vision or alleviate the eye condition. The legislature might have concluded that the frequency of occasions when a prescription is necessary was sufficient to justify this regulation of the fitting of eyeglasses. Likewise, when it is necessary to duplicate a lens, a written prescription may or may not be necessary. But the legislature might have concluded that one was needed often enough to require one in every case. Or the legislature may have concluded that eye examinations were so critical, not only for correction of vision but also for detection of latent ailments or diseases, that every change in frames and every duplication of a lens should be accompanied by a prescription from a medical expert. To be sure, the present law does not require a new examination of the eyes every time the frames are changed or the lenses duplicated. For if the old prescription is on file with the optician, he can go ahead and make the new fitting or duplicate the lenses. But the law need not be in every respect logically consistent with its aims

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to be constitutional. It is enough that there is an evil at hand for correction, and that it might be thought that the particular legislative measure was a rational way to correct it.

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