Douglas v. Noble, No. 159

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRANDEIS
Citation261 U.S. 165,67 L.Ed. 590,43 S.Ct. 303
Decision Date19 February 1923
Docket NumberNo. 159
PartiesDOUGLAS et al. v. NOBLE

261 U.S. 165
43 S.Ct. 303
67 L.Ed. 590
DOUGLAS et al.

v.

NOBLE.

No. 159.
Argued Jan. 2, 1923.
Decided Feb. 19, 1923.

Messrs. Malcolm Douglas, of Seattle, Wash., and Lindsay L. Thompson, of Olympia, Wash., for appellants.

Mr. C. E. Gates, of Seattle, Wash., for appellee.

Page 166

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1893 the Legislature of Washington provided that only licensed persons should practice dentistry. It vested the authority to license in a board of examiners, consisting of five practicing dentists, and it required that persons desiring to practice should apply to that board and undergo examination before it. Every person of good moral character with a diploma from a reputable dental college was declared eligible, and, if he or she passed the examination, became entitled to a license. Laws of Washington 1893, c. 55. That statute, with amendments not here material (Laws of 1901, c. 152), has since been continuously in force. It is now embodied in Remington's 1915 Code and Statutes of Washington, §§ 8412-8425. The validity of the statute has been attacked on various grounds; and it has been repeatedly upheld by the highest court of the state.1

In 1921 Noble brought this suit in the federal court for the Western District of Washington to enjoin the King county p osecuting attorney from proceeding criminally against him for practicing dentistry without a license. Jurisdiction of that court was invoked solely on the ground that rights guaranteed plaintiff by the federal Constitution were being invaded. The bill charged that these were violated, both because the licensing statute was void and because the board in administering it had exercised its power arbitrarily. The case was heard by three judges upon application for an interlocutory injunction

Page 167

under section 266 of the Judicial Code (Comp. St. § 1243). It was admitted that plaintiff was of good moral character; that he had a diploma from a reputable dental college; that he had submitted himself to the dental board for examination; that he had been examined, but had not passed the examination; and that, although refused a license, he had persisted in practicing dentistry. The board denied, by its answer, that it had acted arbitrarily in refusing a license; and this charge does not appear to have been further insisted upon.

Plaintiff rested his case solely on the claim that the statute violated the federal Constitution. It was conceded that a state may, consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment, prescribe that only persons possessing the reasonably necessary qualifications shall practice dentistry (Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U. S. 114, 9 Sup. Ct. 231, 32 L. Ed. 623), and that the Legislature may, if consistent with the state Constitution, confer upon an administrative board the power to determine whether an applicant possesses the qualifications which the Legislature has declared to be necessary. The contention is that the statute purports to confer upon the board arbitrary power to exclude applicants from the practice of dentistry, and thus violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court held the act void on that ground, and issued a permanent injunction. Noble v. Douglas, 274 Fed. 672. Whether it erred in so holding is the only question presented for our consideration on this appeal.

The argument is that, since the act does not state in terms what the scope and character of the examination shall be, arbitrary power is conferred upon the board to grant or withhold licenses. It is pointed out that the statute does not in terms direct that the examination shall relate to the appellants' qualifications to practice dentistry; that it does not prescribe the subjects upon which applicants shall be examined, or whether proficiency

Page 168

shall be determined by knowledge of theory or by requiring applicants to demonstrate skill with the tools and materials of the profession; that it does not provide whether the examination shall be oral or written, or what percentages of correct answers shall be required to pass the examination; and that it does not require the keeping of records of the proceedings which could be used for purposes of review.

What authority the statute purports to confer upon the board is a question of construction. If it purported to confer arbitrary discretion to withhold a license, or to impose conditions which have no relation to the applicant's qualifications to...

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133 practice notes
  • Tyler v. Vickery, No. 74-3413
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 20, 1975
    ..."it is not to be presumed that powers conferred upon the administrative boards will be exercised arbitrarily," Douglas v. Noble, 1923, 261 U.S. 165, 170, 43 S.Ct. 303, 305, 67 L.Ed. 590, we may presume that such errors are infrequent. Even making the generous assumption that one out of ever......
  • Tucson Woman's Clinic v. Eden, No. 02-17375
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 18, 2004
    ...due process, and therefore, the delegation scheme does not violate physicians' procedural due process rights. See Douglas v. Noble, 261 U.S. 165, 168-69, 43 S.Ct. 303, 67 L.Ed. 590 (1923) (upholding a delegation of licensing authority to a licensing board because the highest court of the St......
  • New State Ice Co v. Liebmann, No. 463
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 21, 1932
    ...which dictates the licensing of dentists, Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U. S. 114, 122, 9 S. Ct. 231, 32 L. Ed. 623; Douglas v. Noble, 261 U. S. 165, 170, 43 S. Ct. 303, 67 L. Ed. 590; or the concern over possible dishonesty, which led to the licensing of auctioneers or hawkers, Baccus v State......
  • Rochester Telephone Corporation v. United States, No. 481
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 17, 1939
    ...185, 187, 57 L.Ed. 431; United States v. Abilene & So. Ry., 265 U.S. 274, 288, 44 S.Ct. 565, 569, 68 L.Ed.1016; compare Douglas v. Noble, 261 U.S. 165, 169, 43 S.Ct. 303, 305, 67 L.Ed. 590. 'It is, perhaps, not too much to say that not a single case arising before the Commission could be pr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
133 cases
  • Tyler v. Vickery, No. 74-3413
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 20, 1975
    ..."it is not to be presumed that powers conferred upon the administrative boards will be exercised arbitrarily," Douglas v. Noble, 1923, 261 U.S. 165, 170, 43 S.Ct. 303, 305, 67 L.Ed. 590, we may presume that such errors are infrequent. Even making the generous assumption that one out of ever......
  • Tucson Woman's Clinic v. Eden, No. 02-17375
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 18, 2004
    ...due process, and therefore, the delegation scheme does not violate physicians' procedural due process rights. See Douglas v. Noble, 261 U.S. 165, 168-69, 43 S.Ct. 303, 67 L.Ed. 590 (1923) (upholding a delegation of licensing authority to a licensing board because the highest court of the St......
  • New State Ice Co v. Liebmann, No. 463
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 21, 1932
    ...which dictates the licensing of dentists, Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U. S. 114, 122, 9 S. Ct. 231, 32 L. Ed. 623; Douglas v. Noble, 261 U. S. 165, 170, 43 S. Ct. 303, 67 L. Ed. 590; or the concern over possible dishonesty, which led to the licensing of auctioneers or hawkers, Baccus v State......
  • Rochester Telephone Corporation v. United States, No. 481
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 17, 1939
    ...185, 187, 57 L.Ed. 431; United States v. Abilene & So. Ry., 265 U.S. 274, 288, 44 S.Ct. 565, 569, 68 L.Ed.1016; compare Douglas v. Noble, 261 U.S. 165, 169, 43 S.Ct. 303, 305, 67 L.Ed. 590. 'It is, perhaps, not too much to say that not a single case arising before the Commission could be pr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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