Surmeli v. State of New York, No. 75 Civil 4520.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtEDWARD WEINFELD
Citation412 F. Supp. 394
PartiesSuphi SURMELI et al., Plaintiffs, v. The STATE OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.
Decision Date07 April 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75 Civil 4520.

412 F. Supp. 394

Suphi SURMELI et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The STATE OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.

No. 75 Civil 4520.

United States District Court, S. D. New York.

April 7, 1976.


412 F. Supp. 395

Lans Feinberg & Cohen, New York City, for plaintiffs; Robert Stephan Cohen, Deborah E. Lans, New York City, of counsel.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen., New York City, for defendants; Robert S. Hammer, Asst. Atty. Gen., New York City, of counsel.

OPINION

EDWARD WEINFELD, District Judge.

Plaintiffs commenced this action for a judgment declaring unconstitutional the New York State Education Law, section 6524(6), and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder which (1) require that a physician, to be licensed to practice medicine in the state, must be either a citizen of the United States or file a declaration of intent to become a citizen, and (2) terminate any such license upon the alien physician's failure to become a citizen within ten years of licensure.1 Since the material facts are not in dispute, the parties agree that the matter is ripe for summary disposition pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Plaintiffs, eight physicians, citizens of Turkey, are all resident aliens of the United States and have been licensed to practice medicine by the State of New York under the challenged provision. They were individually licensed on various dates during the period of 1965 to 1971 and are practicing their particular disciplines both privately and at medical institutions. The license of each specifies the date by which citizenship is "required" and each is in imminent danger of revocation of his license under the challenged provision on the sole ground that he has not become a citizen within the proscribed time period.

The complaint charges that the state regulatory scheme which would deprive plaintiffs, who have already been found qualified as physicians and licensed to practice, of their licenses exclusively on the basis of their alienage violates their constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment,2 and further that this program interferes with the exclusive federal authority to regulate immigration and naturalization under Article VI of the Constitution.

The defendants, at the threshold, contend that plaintiffs, having obtained the benefits of the licensing statute, are estopped from challenging

412 F. Supp. 396
its constitutionality.3 However, this doctrine of estoppel is a slender reed for defendants to rely on in their attempt to foreclose plaintiffs' constitutional attack. As the Supreme Court observed recently: "This doctrine has unquestionably been applied unevenly in the past, and observed as often as not in the breach."4 Plaintiffs, once having been found qualified and licensed to practice, acquired a property right which was entitled to constitutional protection.5 The acceptance of the license did not deprive them of the right to challenge the constitutional validity of the ten-year restriction. As the first Mr. Justice Harlan reasoned in W. W. Cargill Co. v. Minnesota:6
"The acceptance of a license, in whatever form, will not impose upon the licensee an obligation to respect or to comply with any provision of the statute or with any regulations prescribed by the state . . . that are repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. . . . If the state refused to grant a license, or if it sought to revoke one granted, because the applicant in the one case, or the licensee in the other, refused to comply with statutory provisions or with rules or regulations inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States, the rights of the applicant or the licensee could be protected and enforced by appropriate judicial proceedings." emphasis added.

The court holds plaintiffs are not debarred from attacking the provision requiring citizenship within a ten-year period, absent which their licenses are subject to revocation.

We now turn to the merits of plaintiffs' claims. Initially they contend that the defendants' threatened and present enforcement of the statute "arbitrarily and irrationally discriminate against, and separately classify and treat, the plaintiffs solely on the basis of their alienage" in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The issue so presented seemingly was put at rest in In re Griffiths,7 where the Supreme Court held unconstitutional Connecticut's exclusion of aliens from admission to practice law. The Court premised its judgment upon basic constitutional concepts: first, that a lawfully admitted resident alien is a "person" within the Fourteenth Amendment's prohibition against denial "to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws";8 second, that the "right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity that it was the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to secure";9 third, that "classifications based on alienage, like those based on nationality or race, are inherently suspect and subject to close judicial scrutiny";10

412 F. Supp. 397
fourth, that a state which adopts a suspect classification "bears a heavy burden of justification";11 and fifth, that "to justify the use of a suspect classification, a State must show that...

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9 practice notes
  • Norwick v. Nyquist, No. 74 Civ. 2798(WCC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 20 Julio 1976
    ...and that its use is "necessary * * * to the accomplishment" of its purpose or the safeguarding of its interest'." Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y. 1976) (footnotes It is the opinion of this panel that Graham, Sugarman and Griffiths establish, beyond peradventure, that any chal......
  • Damino v. O'NEILL, No. CV 87-2003.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 28 Septiembre 1987
    ...professionally and morally qualified to practice medicine in order to protect the health and safety of the public. Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y.1976), aff'd, 556 F.2d 560 (2d Cir. 1976). The individual physician also has a significant interest in the revocation proceedings ......
  • Clark v. Tarrant County, Tex., Civ. A. No. 4-82-260 K.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 20 Marzo 1985
    ...Section 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341-345, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 1145-1147, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979); Surmeli v. State of New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D. N.Y.), aff'd 556 F.2d 560 (2nd Cir.1976) cert. denied, Nyquist v. Surmeli, 436 U.S. 903, 98 S.Ct. 2230, 56 L.Ed.2d 400 (1978). Becau......
  • Nielsen v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, No. 45314
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 2 Noviembre 1978
    ...against the class. (Italics ours. Footnote omitted.) Nyquist v. Mauclet, supra at 9, 97 S.Ct. at 2125. See Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y.1976), Aff'd, 436 U.S. 903, 98 S.Ct. 2230, 56 L.Ed.2d 400 (May 16, Similarly, APR 2(B)(2), although not an absolute barrier to membership ......
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9 cases
  • Norwick v. Nyquist, No. 74 Civ. 2798(WCC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 20 Julio 1976
    ...and that its use is "necessary * * * to the accomplishment" of its purpose or the safeguarding of its interest'." Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y. 1976) (footnotes It is the opinion of this panel that Graham, Sugarman and Griffiths establish, beyond peradventure, that any chal......
  • Damino v. O'NEILL, No. CV 87-2003.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • 28 Septiembre 1987
    ...professionally and morally qualified to practice medicine in order to protect the health and safety of the public. Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y.1976), aff'd, 556 F.2d 560 (2d Cir. 1976). The individual physician also has a significant interest in the revocation proceedings ......
  • Clark v. Tarrant County, Tex., Civ. A. No. 4-82-260 K.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 20 Marzo 1985
    ...Section 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341-345, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 1145-1147, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979); Surmeli v. State of New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D. N.Y.), aff'd 556 F.2d 560 (2nd Cir.1976) cert. denied, Nyquist v. Surmeli, 436 U.S. 903, 98 S.Ct. 2230, 56 L.Ed.2d 400 (1978). Becau......
  • Nielsen v. Washington State Bar Ass'n, No. 45314
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 2 Noviembre 1978
    ...against the class. (Italics ours. Footnote omitted.) Nyquist v. Mauclet, supra at 9, 97 S.Ct. at 2125. See Surmeli v. New York, 412 F.Supp. 394 (S.D.N.Y.1976), Aff'd, 436 U.S. 903, 98 S.Ct. 2230, 56 L.Ed.2d 400 (May 16, Similarly, APR 2(B)(2), although not an absolute barrier to membership ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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