Summary of Williamson v. Lee Optical of OK, Inc.
S. Ct. 1955
Demise of Liberty of Contract-Legislative Power to Regulate Business
Relevant Facts: Williamson, atty general OK, the appellant, and Lee Optical operating optician business in OK, the appellee.
Legal Issue(s): Whether the OK statute mandating that only licensed optometrists or ophthalmologists may fit lenses or duplicate or replace lenses, unless a person has a prescription is unconstitutional?
Court’s Holding: The S Ct, held that the challenged portions of the statute were not unconstitutional.
Procedure: Proceeding under Fed Declaratory Judgment Act to challenge constitutionality of Oklahoma statute dealing with regulation of visual care. The US D Ct, held that certain provisions of statute were unconstitutional, and an appeal was taken. Judgment holding portion unconstitutional reversed; judgment holding portion constitutional affirmed.
Law or Rule(s): Statute must be reasonably and rationally related to the health and welfare of the public to fall under a State’s Police Powers, and must not be arbitrary or discriminatory.
Court Rationale: The law is not required in every aspect to be logically consistent with its aims 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. If the legislature has abused the political process the people must resort to the polls, not the courts [Munn]. An eyeglass frame is used with lenses, and lenses pertain to the human eye, and thereby enter the field of health. Advertising within a profession pertaining to human health may be legislated under the constitution in order that a state treat all persons dealing with the human eye as professionals. Geographical location may be an important consideration in a legislative program which aims to raise the treatment of the eye to a strictly professional level.
Plaintiff’s Argument: 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.
Defendant’s Argument: To subject opticians to this regulatory system and to exempt all sellers of ready-to-wear glasses is discriminatory.