Williamson v. Lee Optical, Inc.,
348 U.S. 483 (1955)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williamson v. Lee Optical, Inc., 348 U.S. 483 (1955)

Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc.

No. 184

Argued March 2, 1955

Decided March 28, 1955*

348 U.S. 483


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. 348 U. S. 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. 348 U. S. 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. 348 U. S. 489-490.

4. A provision forbidding any retail merchandiser to rent space, sub-lease 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. 348 U. S. 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. 348 U. S. 491.

120 F.Supp. 128, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Page 348 U. S. 484

Primary Holding

Due process does not prevent states from regulating conditions in the workplace even when these laws are unwise, flawed, or otherwise potentially questionable.


Opticians are artisans who are trained to make lenses, fill prescriptions, and fit frames for eyeglasses. Oklahoma prohibited anyone from fitting or duplicating lenses for eyeglasses who was not a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist, or who did not have a prescription from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist. As a result, opticians were unable to put old glasses in new frames or duplicate lenses that had been lost or broken without a new prescription. Oklahoma also did not allow opticians to advertise the sale of optical appliances, such as frames and mountings, or rent space in a retail store to someone who purported to conduct eye examinations.



  • William Orville Douglas (Author)
  • Earl Warren
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • Felix Frankfurter
  • Harold Hitz Burton
  • Tom C. Clark
  • Sherman Minton

Poor decisions by the legislature should be addressed through the political process rather than judicial proceedings. Courts should not be able to invalidate state economic regulations on the grounds that they disagree with the theories supporting them. Even if the state law imposes burdens or waste, the legislature has the sole authority over weighing its benefits against its costs. It is possible that it determined that prescriptions are essential in such a high rate of cases that they should be universally required. The opticians cannot prove that the law had no rational relationship to legitimate objectives.


  • John Marshall Harlan II (Author)

Case Commentary

This is an early example of how the lowest level of scrutiny, rational basis review, applies to challenges to economic regulations. Private parties seeking to overturn such a law have the burden of proof to show that there is no legitimate interest to support it or that there is no rational connection between the interest and the means used to achieve it.

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