Williamson v. Lee Optical Co.


Oklahoma state legislature passed a law requiring a license for people who fit lenses for optical products.  The law said that one need not have a license if a licensed optical practitioner gave permission (a prescription) to the particular individual.  The practical consequence of this was to force anyone with glasses to see a licensed optometrist and receive a prescription, even for eye glass repairs.  Seller of “ready to wear” or premade glasses were exempted from the law.  Plaintiffs in this case sued because they felt it violated the equal protection clause, arguing that it was an unnecessary and arbitrary regulation on non-licensed individuals and on consumers of eye glasses.


Whether a law requiring a licensed prescription of eye glass products violates the equal protection clause of the United States constitution.


Yes, law upheld.  The general rule, according to the court, is that state laws affecting business should receive the lowest level of due process scrutiny called the rational basis test – which states that the legislature need only have a rational basis for passing the law.  In this case, the “rational basis” was that the state was providing for public welfare by requiring prescriptions because it essentially mandated and at a minimum strongly encouraged eye exams, which is a preventative measure for the state’s population and can result in positive impacts on the state’s population.

The court argued that they will no longer strike down laws simply because they are “needless” and “wasteful.”  The minimum “rational basis” standard is all that needs to exist and it is no longer the court’s obligation to balance the “advantages and disadvantages” of state legislation.

Leave a Reply