WILLIAMSON, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OKLAHOMA, ET AL. v.
LEE OPTICAL OF OKLAHOMA, INC. ET AL.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA. * No. 184.
Argued March 2, 1955.
Decided March 28, 1955.
1. Provisions of an Oklahoma statute making it unlawful for any person not a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist to fit lenses to a face or to duplicate or replace into frames lenses or other optical appliances, except upon written prescriptive authority of an Oklahoma licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist, are not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337 . Pp. 484-488.
2. To subject opticians to this regulatory system while exempting all sellers of ready-to-wear glasses does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 488-489.
3. A provision making it unlawful to solicit the sale of frames, mountings or any other optical appliances does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 489-490.
4. A provision forbidding any retail merchandiser to rent space, sublease departments or otherwise permit any person "purporting to do eye examination or visual care" to occupy space in a retail store does not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 490-491.
5. A provision making it unlawful to solicit the sale of spectacles, eyeglasses, lenses and prisms by the use of advertising media is constitutional. P. 491.
120 F. Supp. 128, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
[ Footnote * ] Together with No. 185, Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. et al. v. Williamson, Attorney General of Oklahoma, et al., also on appeal from the same Court.
James C. Harkin, Assistant Attorney General of Oklahoma, argued the cause for appellants in No. 184 and appellees in No. 185. With him on the brief were Mac Q. Williamson, Attorney General, Fred Hansen, First Assistant Attorney General, and Leroy Powers. Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General of California, and Eimo G. [348 U.S. 483, 484] Funke, Assistant Attorney General, were of counsel on the brief.
Dick H. Woods argued the cause for appellees in No. 184 and appellants in No. 185. With him on the brief were Duke Duvall and John M. Phillips.
Philip B. Perlman argued the cause for the American Optometric Association, Inc., as amicus curiae, urging reversal in No. 184 and affirmance in No. 185. With him on the brief were Ellis Lyons and William P. MacCracken, Jr.
By special leave of Court, Herbert A. Bergson argued the cause and filed a brief for the Guild of Prescription Opticians of America, Inc. et al., as amici curiae, urging affirmance in No. 184.
Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal in No. 184 and affirmance in No. 185 were filed for the States of Arkansas, by Tom Gentry, Attorney General, James L. Sloan, Assistant Attorney General, and Carl Langston; California, by Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, E. G. Funke, Assistant Attorney General, and Dan Kaufmann, Deputy Attorney General; Kansas, by Harold R. Fatzer, Attorney General, and Paul E. Wilson, First Assistant Attorney General; and Mississippi, by J. P. Coleman, Attorney General, and Richard A. Billups, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This suit was instituted in the District Court to have an Oklahoma law (59 Okla. Stat. Ann. 941-947, Okla. Laws 1953, c. 13, 2-8) declared unconstitutional and to enjoin state officials from enforcing it (28 U.S.C. 2201, 2202, 2281) for the reason that it allegedly violated various provisions of the Federal Constitution. The matter was heard by a District Court of three judges, [348 U.S. 483, 485] as required by 28 U.S.C. 2281. That court held certain provisions of the law unconstitutional. 120 F. Supp. 128. The case is here by appeal, 28 U.S.C. 1253.
The District Court held unconstitutional portions of three sections of the Act. First, it held invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment the portions of 2 which make it unlawful for any person not a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist to fit lenses to a face or to duplicate or replace into frames lenses or other optical appliances, except upon written prescriptive authority of an Oklahoma licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist. 1 [348 U.S. 483, 486]
An ophthalmologist is a duly licensed physician who specializes in the care of the eyes. An optometrist examines eyes for refractive error, recognizes (but does not treat) diseases of the eye, and fills prescriptions for eyeglasses. The optician is an artisan qualified to grind lenses, fill prescriptions, and fit frames.
The effect of 2 is to forbid the optician from fitting or duplicating lenses without a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. In practical effect, it means that no optician can fit old glasses into new frames or supply a lens, whether it be a new lens or one to duplicate a lost or broken lens, without a prescription. The District Court conceded that it was in the competence of the police power of a State to regulate the examination of the eyes. But it rebelled at the notion that a State could require a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist "to take old lenses and place them in new frames and then fit the completed spectacles to the face of the eyeglass wearer." 120 F. Supp., at 135. It held that such a requirement was not "reasonably and rationally related to the health and welfare of the people." Id., at 136. The court found that through mechanical devices and ordinary skills the optician could take a broken lens or a fragment thereof, measure its power, and reduce it to prescriptive terms. The court held that "Although on this precise issue of duplication, the legislature in the instant regulation was dealing with a matter of public interest, the particular means chosen are neither reasonably necessary nor reasonably related to the end sought to be achieved." Id., at 137. It was, accordingly, the opinion of the court that this provision of the law violated the Due Process Clause by arbitrarily interfering with the optician's right to do business.
We think the due process question is answered in principle by Roschen v. Ward, 279 U.S. 337 , which upheld a [348 U.S. 483, 487] New York statute making it unlawful to sell eyeglasses at retail in any store, unless a duly licensed physician or optometrist were in charge and in personal attendance. The Court said, ". . . wherever the requirements of the Act stop, there can be no doubt that the presence and superintendence of the specialist tend to diminish an evil." Id., at 339.
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. It appears that in many cases the optician can easily supply the new frames or new lenses without reference to the old written prescription. It also appears that many written prescriptions contain no directive data in regard to fitting spectacles to the face. But in some cases the directions contained in the prescription are essential, if the glasses are to be fitted so as to correct the particular defects of vision or alleviate the eye condition. The legislature might have concluded that the frequency of occasions when a prescription is necessary was sufficient to justify this regulation of the fitting of eyeglasses. Likewise, when it is necessary to duplicate a lens, a written prescription may or may not be necessary. But the legislature might have concluded that one was needed often enough to require one in every case. Or the legislature may have concluded that eye examinations were so critical, not only for correction of vision but also for detection of latent ailments or diseases, that every change in frames and every duplication of a lens should be accompanied by a prescription from a medical expert. To be sure, the present law does not require a new examination of the eyes every time the frames are changed or the lenses duplicated. For if the old prescription is on file with the optician, he can go ahead and make the new fitting or duplicate the lenses. But the law need not be in every respect logically consistent with its aims [348 U.S. 483, 488] 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.
The day is gone when this 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. See Nebbia v. New York, 291 U.S. 502 ; West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379 ; Olsen v. Nebraska, 313 U.S. 236 ; Lincoln Union v. Northwestern Co., 335 U.S. 525 ; Daniel v. Family Ins. Co., 336 U.S. 220 ; Day-Brite Lighting, Inc. v. Missouri, 342 U.S. 421 . We emphasize again what Chief Justice Waite said in Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 134 , "For protection against abuses by legislatures the people must resort to the polls, not to the courts."
Secondly, the District Court held that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to subject opticians to this regulatory system and to exempt, as 3 of the Act 2 does, all sellers of ready-to-wear glasses. [348 U.S. 483, 489] The problem of legislative classification is a perennial one, admitting of no doctrinaire definition. Evils in the same field may be of different dimensions and proportions, requiring different remedies. Or so the legislature may think. Tigner v. Texas, 310 U.S. 141 . Or the reform may take one step at a time, addressing itself to the phase of the problem which seems most acute to the legislative mind. Semler v. Dental Examiners, 294 U.S. 608 . The legislature may select one phase of one field and apply a remedy there, neglecting the others. A. F. of L. v. American Sash Co., 335 U.S. 338 . The prohibition of the Equal Protection Clause goes no further than the invidious discrimination. We cannot say that that point has been reached here. For all this record shows, the ready-to-wear branch of this business may not loom large in Oklahoma or may present problems of regulation distinct from the other branch.
Third, the District Court held unconstitutional, as violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, that portion of 3 which makes it unlawful "to solicit the sale of . . . frames, mountings . . . or any other optical appliances." 3 The court conceded that state regulation of advertising relating to eye examinations was a matter "rationally related to the public health and welfare" (120 F. Supp., at 140) and therefore subject to regulation within the principles of Semler v. Dental Examiners, supra. But regulation of the advertising of eyeglass frames was said to intrude "into a mercantile field only casually related to the visual care of the public" [348 U.S. 483, 490] and restrict "an activity which in no way can detrimentally affect the people." 120 F. Supp., at 140-141. 4
An eyeglass frame, considered in isolation, is only a piece of merchandise. But an eyeglass frame is not used in isolation, as Judge Murrah said in dissent below; it is used with lenses; and lenses, pertaining as they do to the human eye, enter the field of health. Therefore, the legislature might conclude that to regulate one effectively it would have to regulate the other. Or it might conclude that both the sellers of frames and the sellers of lenses were in a business where advertising should be limited or even abolished in the public interest. Semler v. Dental Examiners, supra. The advertiser of frames may be using his ads to bring in customers who will buy lenses. If the advertisement of lenses is to be abolished or controlled, the advertising of frames must come under the same restraints; or so the legislature might think. We see no constitutional reason why a State may not treat all who deal with the human eye as members of a profession who should use no merchandising methods for obtaining customers.
Fourth, the District Court held unconstitutional, as violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the provision of 4 of the Oklahoma Act which reads as follows:
What we have said is sufficient to dispose of the appeal in No. 185 from the conclusion of the District Court that that portion of 3 which makes it unlawful to solicit the sale of spectacles, eyeglasses, lenses, and prisms by the use of advertising media is constitutional.
The other contentions urged by appellants in No. 185 are without merit.
[ Footnote 2 ] Section 3 reads as follows:
[ Footnote 3 ] See note 2, supra.
[ Footnote 4 ] The court also said: