Arias v. Examining Board of Refrig. & Air Con. Tech., Civ. No. 264-72.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
Writing for the CourtCOFFIN, Circuit , and CANCIO and TOLEDO
Citation353 F. Supp. 857
PartiesRolando Santin ARIAS et al., Plaintiffs, v. EXAMINING BOARD OF REFRIGERATION AND AIR CONDITIONING TECHNICIANS, Defendants.
Decision Date20 November 1972
Docket NumberCiv. No. 264-72.

353 F. Supp. 857

Rolando Santin ARIAS et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
EXAMINING BOARD OF REFRIGERATION AND AIR CONDITIONING TECHNICIANS, Defendants.

Civ. No. 264-72.

United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.

November 20, 1972.


353 F. Supp. 858

Dr. Santos P. Amadeo, San Juan, P. R., for plaintiffs.

Jose A. Anglada-Segarra, for the Government of Puerto Rico, San Juan, P. R., for defendants.

Before COFFIN, Circuit Judge, and CANCIO and TOLEDO, District Judges.

OPINION

CANCIO, Chief Judge.

This is an action brought by three refrigeration and air conditioning technicians requesting that Article 9(c)1 of Law Number 36 of May 29, 1970, enacted by the Legislature of Puerto Rico, be declared unconstitutional. They request injunctive relief directed to the members of the Examining Board of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians, who are entrusted by the law with its enforcement.2

The law was enacted to regulate the trade of the air conditioning technicians. Prior to its existence, the trade was unregulated and could be practiced by anyone. By the law, entry into the trade is restricted. One of the conditions for entry is included in Article 9(c): United States citizenship. This is the only requisite with which we are concerned in this case.

The facts have been stipulated or admitted. Plaintiffs are natives of the Republic of Cuba and are not citizens of the United States. At the time of the enactment of Law 36, the plaintiffs, who

353 F. Supp. 859
lived in Puerto Rico, were engaged in the practice of the trade sought to be regulated by the law. Once the law became effective, they requested a license to engage in their trade without undergoing an examination, as provided for by its Article 10,3 and their request was denied because they failed to meet the citizenship requirement of Article 9, subsection (c),4 as is also required by Article 10. Finally, it was admitted by the defendants that the plaintiffs fulfill all the requirements of the law to be admitted to the practice of the trade of refrigeration and air conditioning technician, except for the United States citizenship requirement of Article 9 subsection (c)

A three-judge district court was convened under Title 28 United States Code, Sections 2281-2284, over the opposition of the defendants. Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss and raised several affirmative defenses in their answer. Some of these defenses present preliminary issues which may be disposed of briefly. Those remaining, which are of substance, will be included in the discussion of the constitutional question presented.

In their complaint, plaintiffs aver that this action is brought "on their own behalf and on behalf of all persons similarly situated, pursuant to Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." However, no attempt has been made to demonstrate that the requirements of the rule are met.5 The Court is not therefore in a position to certify the case as a class action. The prayer to that effect is denied.

Another preliminary issue raised by the defendants is the applicability of the doctrine of abstention in this case. Since its expression in the case of Railroad Commission v. Pullman Company, 312 U.S. 496, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971 (1941), it has been well settled that the doctrine is applicable only when the state court construction of the state law in question may obviate the need for a decision on the federal constitutional issues. Thus, some degree of uncertainty and the possibility of variance in the interpretation of the statute must be present to justify the abstention of a federal court. The doctrine is not properly invoked when the purpose is to have the local courts test the validity of the statute in the light of the federal constitutional claims. Its purpose is to allow the state or Commonwealth courts to interpret the statute in the light of the federal claim, so that a decision on federal constitutional grounds might be avoided. To that effect, the Supreme Court, in Fornaris v. Ridge Tool Co.,

353 F. Supp. 860
400 U.S. 41, 43, 91 S.Ct. 156, 157, 27 L. Ed.2d 174 (1970) stated
The question presented here is akin to that question, for we deal with a rather vague Puerto Rican law that the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico has not authoritatively construed. Only last Term in Reetz v. Bozanich, 397 U.S. 82, 90 S.Ct. 788, 25 L.Ed.2d 68, we held that a three-judge federal court should not have proceeded to strike down an Alaska law which, if construed by the Alaska Supreme Court, might be so confined as not to have any constitutional infirmity. We said, "A state court decision here . . . could conceivably avoid any decision under the Fourteenth Amendment and would avoid any possible irritant in the federal-state relationship." Id., at 86-87, 90 S.Ct. at 790. (Emphasis added.)

That is not the case here. We fail to see any conceivable way in which the Commonwealth courts can construe Section 9(c) of the statute to avoid the constitutional issues raised in this case. Consequently, abstention is not warranted here.

Defendants also suggest that the Examining Board of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians is not the proper party defendant. They do not suggest who they believe the proper one to be. No profound analysis is necessary to dispose of this question. The Examining Board is created by statute6 and is composed of five members, appointed by the Governor of Puerto Rico.7 Its duties, as defined by law, include the concession of licenses to engage in the trade,8 giving of examinations to determine the fitness to engage in it9 and, in general, to regulate and supervise its practice.10 We fail to see any reason which might lead us to conclude anything but that the members of the Board are the officers of the Commonwealth charged with the enforcement and execution of the statute and are clearly the party defendant contemplated in Title 28 United States Code, Section 2281.

Now that we have disposed of the threshold issues, we may enter into the substance of the case. Here, the validity of a classification which has been created by law to restrict the practice of a trade is questioned on equal protection and due process of law grounds.11 It is undisputed, and even the authorities cited by the defendants so hold, that, in general, such classification must meet a standard of reasonableness. In 51 Am. Jur.2d, p. 53, Licenses and Permits, Section 47, it is stated:

In
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7 practice notes
  • PEARSON YACHT LEAS. CO., DIV. OF GRUMMAN AI, INC. v. Massa, Civ. No. 1018-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • 9 de outubro de 1973
    ...avoid the constitutional issues raised in this case." Arias v. Examining Board of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians, 353 F.Supp. 857 (D.P.R. 1972). In rejecting abstention, we have also taken into account the ensuing delay and the prejudice and additional losses that plain......
  • Surmeli v. State of New York, No. 75 Civil 4520.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 7 de abril de 1976
    ...F.Supp. 1233, 1976 (E.D.N.Y. 3-judge court); Ramos v. U. S. Civil Serv. Comm., 376 F.Supp. 361, 367 (D.P.R.1974); Arias v. Exam. Bd., 353 F.Supp. 857, 862 (D.P.R.1972); Mohamed v. Parks, 352 F.Supp. 518, 520-21 (D.Mass.1973); Teitscheid v. Leopold, 342 F.Supp. 299, 302-03 16 Plaintiffs brou......
  • Frolov v. Delo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • 20 de fevereiro de 1976
    ...(United States v. Khan, 336 F.Supp. 354, D.C.Pa.) and employment licenses (Arias v. Examining Board of Refrig. & Air Con. Tech., 353 F.Supp. 857, I can perceive no legitimate State interest, 'compelling' or otherwise, to justify preferential treatment for resident-citizens over resident......
  • AMERICAN EUTECTIC WELD. AL. SALES CO. v. García-Rodríguez, Civ. No. 104-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • 3 de janeiro de 1973
    ...case. Eutectic has not established that Mr. García used his privileged position to the detriment of his former employer. There is no 353 F. Supp. 857 showing of piracy, or that the defendant revealed confidential information, which we cannot presume at this stage. Purchasing Associates v. W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • PEARSON YACHT LEAS. CO., DIV. OF GRUMMAN AI, INC. v. Massa, Civ. No. 1018-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • 9 de outubro de 1973
    ...avoid the constitutional issues raised in this case." Arias v. Examining Board of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians, 353 F.Supp. 857 (D.P.R. 1972). In rejecting abstention, we have also taken into account the ensuing delay and the prejudice and additional losses that plain......
  • Surmeli v. State of New York, No. 75 Civil 4520.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 7 de abril de 1976
    ...F.Supp. 1233, 1976 (E.D.N.Y. 3-judge court); Ramos v. U. S. Civil Serv. Comm., 376 F.Supp. 361, 367 (D.P.R.1974); Arias v. Exam. Bd., 353 F.Supp. 857, 862 (D.P.R.1972); Mohamed v. Parks, 352 F.Supp. 518, 520-21 (D.Mass.1973); Teitscheid v. Leopold, 342 F.Supp. 299, 302-03 16 Plaintiffs brou......
  • Frolov v. Delo
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New York)
    • 20 de fevereiro de 1976
    ...(United States v. Khan, 336 F.Supp. 354, D.C.Pa.) and employment licenses (Arias v. Examining Board of Refrig. & Air Con. Tech., 353 F.Supp. 857, I can perceive no legitimate State interest, 'compelling' or otherwise, to justify preferential treatment for resident-citizens over resident......
  • AMERICAN EUTECTIC WELD. AL. SALES CO. v. García-Rodríguez, Civ. No. 104-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • 3 de janeiro de 1973
    ...case. Eutectic has not established that Mr. García used his privileged position to the detriment of his former employer. There is no 353 F. Supp. 857 showing of piracy, or that the defendant revealed confidential information, which we cannot presume at this stage. Purchasing Associates v. W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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