Augustus Reetz v. People of the State of Michigan

Decision Date23 February 1903
Docket NumberNo. 143,143
Citation188 U.S. 505,47 L.Ed. 563,23 S.Ct. 390
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Act No. 237 of the public acts of the state of Michigan (1899) directed the appointment of 'a board of registration in medicine,' to hold two regular meetings at specified times in each year at the state capitol, and additional meetings at such times and places as it might determine; required all persons engaging in the practice of medicine and surgery to obtain from such board a certificate of registration; prescribed the conditions upon which such certificate should be granted, and forbade, under penalty, the practice of medicine or surgery without such certificate. The conditions above referred to were either a satisfactory examination, or the possession of 'a diploma from any legally incorporated, regularly established, and reputable college of medicine, . . . having at least a three years' course of eight months in each year, or a course of four years of six months in each year, . . . as shall be approved and designated by the board of registration,' with a proviso that 'the board of registration shall not register any person by reason of a diploma from any college which sells, or advertises to sell, diplomas 'without attendance,' nor from any other than a regularly established and reputable college.' Another provision was that an applicant should be given a certificate of registration if he should 'present sufficient proof within six months after the passage of this act of his having already been legally registered under act No. 167 of 1883, as amended in 1887, entitled 'An Act to Promote Public Health." The plaintiff in error was prosecuted and convicted in the circuit court for the county of Muskegon of a violation of this statute, which conviction was affirmed by the supreme court of the state (127 Mich. 87, 86 N. W. 396), to reverse which ruling this writ of error was sued out.

Messrs. William P. Belden, Edwin A. Burlingame, and Jesse F. Orton for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Charles B. Cross, Charles A. Blair, George S. Lovelace, and Horace M. Oren for defendants in error.

Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:

The power of a state to make reasonable provisions for determining the qualifications of those engaging in the practice of medicine, of those engagin in the practice of medicine, and punishing those who attempt to engage therein in defiance of such statutory provisions, is not open to question. Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U. S. 114, 32 L. ed. 623, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 231; Hawker v. New York, 170 U. S. 189, 42 L. ed. 1002, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 573, and cases cited in the opinion; State ex rel. Burroughs v. Webster, 150 Ind. 607, 41 L. R. A. 212, 50 N. E. 750, and cases cited.

It is objected in the present case that the board of registration is given authority to exercise judicial powers without any appeal from its decision, inasmuch as it may refuse a certificate of registration if it shall find that no sufficient proof is presented that the applicant had been 'legally registered under act No. 167 of 1883.' That, it is contended, is the determination of a legal question which no tribunal other than a regularly organized court can be empowered to decide. The decision of the state supreme court is conclusive that the act does not conflict with the state Constitution, and we know of no provision in the Federal Constitution which forbids a state from granting to a tribunal, whether called a court or a board of registration, the final determination of a legal question. Indeed, it not infrequently happens that a full discharge of their duties compels boards, or officers of a purely ministerial character, to consider and determine questions of a legal nature. Due process is not necessarily judicial process. Den ex dem. Murray v. Hoboken Land & Improv. Co. 18 How. 272, 15 L. ed. 372; Davidson v. New Orleans, 96 U. S. 07, 24 L. ed. 616; Ex parte Wall, 107 U. S. 265, 289, 27 L. ed. 552, 562, 2 Sup. Ct. Rep. 569; Dreyer v. Illinois, 187 U. S. 71, 83, ante, 28, 32, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 28, 32; People v. Hasbrouck, 11 Utah, 291, 39 Pac. 918. In the last case this very question was presented, and in the opinion, on page 305, Pac. p. 921, it was said:

'The objection that the statute attempts to confer judicial power on the board is not well founded. Many executive officers, even those who are spoken of as purely ministerial officers, act judicially in the determination of facts in the performance of their official duties; and in so doing they do not exercise 'judicial power,' as that phrase is commonly used, and as it is used in the organic act in conferring judicial power upon specified courts. The powers conferred on the board of medical examiners are nowise different in character in this respect from those exercised by the examiners of candidates to teach in our public schools, or by tax assessors or boards of equalization in determining, for purposes of taxation, the value of property. The ascertainment and determination of qualifications to practise medicine by a board of competent experts, appointed for that purpose, is not the exercise of a power which appropriately belongs to the judicial department of the government.'

In Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516, 28 L. ed. 232,1 Mr. Justice Matthews, speaking for the court, discussed at some, Length and with citation of many authorities the essential elements of due process of law, and summed up the conclusions in these words (p. 537, L. ed. p. 2392):

'It follows that any legal proceeding enforced by public authority, whether sanctioned by age and custom, or newly devised in the discretion of the legislative power, in furtherance of the general public good, which regards and preserves these principles of liberty and justice, must be held to be due process of law.'

Neither is the right of appeal essential to due process of law. In nearly every state are statutes giving, in criminal cases of a minor nature, a single trial, without any right of review. For nearly a century trials under the Federal...

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