Friday, November 15, 2013

Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. case brief

Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. case brief summary
348 U.S. 483 (1955)

Appellant Oklahoma state officials sought review of a decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, which held that portions of Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 59, §§ 941-947, 1953 Okla. Sess. Laws 13, §§ 2-8, violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution in an action filed by appellee optician to enjoin the state officials from enforcing the statute.

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.

  • 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.


The Court reversed the portion of the trial court's judgment holding that part of the Oklahoma statute was unconstitutional, and the Court affirmed the remainder of the judgment.

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