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Law School Case Brief

Williamson v. Lee Optical of Okla., Inc. - 348 U.S. 483, 75 S. Ct. 461 (1955)

Rule:

The day is gone when the United States Supreme Court uses the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to strike down state laws, regulatory of business and industrial conditions, because they may be unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a particular school of thought. For protection against abuses by legislatures the people must resort to the polls, not to the courts.

Facts:

The optician sought to have Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 59, §§ 941-947 (1951) declared unconstitutional because the effect of § 941 was to forbid an optician from fitting or duplicating lenses without a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. In practical effect, it meant that no optician could fit old glasses into new frames or supply a lens without a prescription. The trial court found that portions of the statute were unconstitutional.

Issue:

Did the law violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

On appeal, the United States Supreme Court held that, although the law might have exacted a needless, wasteful requirement in many cases, it was for the legislature, not the courts, to balance the advantages and disadvantages of the new requirement. In reversing the judgment, the Court held that the law did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and that the law's prohibition on the use of advertising for the sale of eyeglasses and lenses was constitutional because the legislature could treat all who dealt with the human eye as members of a profession who should use no merchandising methods for obtaining customers.

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