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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Williamson v. Lee Optical

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

Lee Optical operated a chain of eyeglasses stores throughout the Midwest. Their opticians could independently manufacture new lenses and fit the frames to a customer’s face. In response to this new business model, Oklahoma made it illegal for opticians to manufacture new lenses without a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Lee Optical argued that the Oklahoma law violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

At the time, constitutional challenges to state and federal laws were initially considered by a panel of three federal judges.

In Lee Optical, the panel reviewed the Oklahoma law with the rebuttable presumption of constitutionality from Carolene Products. The district court recognized that “all legislative enactments are accompanied by a presumption of constitutionality.” However, the panel insisted it could still “annul legislative action where it appears certain that the attempted exercise of police power is arbitrary, unreasonable or discriminatory.”

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