LOCATION: Rincon Island
DOCKET NO.: 79-424
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
CITATION: 446 US 478 (1980)
ARGUED: Feb 26, 1980
DECIDED: May 19, 1980
Donald O. Meserve - on behalf of the Petitioners
Vincent J. Mutari - on behalf of the Respondent
Facts of the case
Media for Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y. v. Tomanio
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1980 in Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y. v. Tomanio
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in 79-424, Board of Regents v. Tomanio.
Mr. Meserve, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.
Donald O. Meserve:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.
This case here on certiorari raises really four issues, the first being whether the District Court erred in giving declaratory judgment, that the Board of Regents had violated Mary Tomanio's civil rights by not giving her a hearing; the second being the extent to which the District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals should have been bound by the New York State Court's interpretation of state law; and the other two being a unique interpretation of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with respect to the defenses of res judicata and the statute of limitations.
Since this is a due process case, I think it is important to start with a brief outline of the essential facts to which that due process has got to be applied.
Mary Tomanio practiced chiropractic in the state of New York for a few years before the first chiropractic licensing statute was enacted, effective in July 1963.
When that statute came into effect, it provided a special means of qualification for what were called grandfather applicants which was intended to take into account the fact that they had been out of school for a while and that they had been acquiring valuable experience through actual practice.
A limited series of four special examinations was provided for the grandfather applicants.
At the time the class action was brought contesting the constitutionality of the licensing statute, Wasmuth v. Allen, cited in our brief, and the New York Court of Appeals sustained the statute and the appeal to this Court was dismissed.
Subsequently, the four examinations originally contemplated were extended to five and then to six special examinations.
Mrs. Tomanio had made her application in the normal source of events for licensure, was admitted to the series of special examinations, took and failed all six of them.
As a result of retaining credit for subjects passed in previous exams and as a result of grade averaging within a group of subjects, her final margin of failure on the sixth and last examination was six-tenths of one point.
At this point, it is our contention that she had failed to qualify under a valid and constitutional licensing scheme and at this point if there were no move New York statutes involved, the Circuit Court would have agreed that her previous right to practice chiropractic had expired by the result of her failure on the examinations.
However, in New York we have an article of omnibus provisions which apply to all of the thirty professions licensed by the Board of Regents.
These are in addition to the special provisions set forth in the separate article for each of the professions.
One of the omnibus provisions which has been in effect for many years provides that the Board of Regents may waive a specific licensing requirement if they are satisfied that it has been substantially met.
After failing the examination route under the chiropractic article, After failing the examination rule under the chiropractic article, Dr. Tomanio applied for a waiver of her failure on the examinations.
This was denied by the department, and that was in November of 1971.
She subsequently instituted a state court action contending that the denial was arbitrary and capricious and that the statute required the regents to consider her failure and her narrow margin of failure on the examination and her licensure in two other states.
The Supreme Court of the State of New York at special term granted judgment from the bench for Mrs. Tomanio.
No decision was written.
The Board of Regents appealed and that judgment was unanimously reversed by the appellate division.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, it was unanimously dismissed.
So that all of the I believe 11 appellate judges in the State of New York dismissed her action.
So then in June of 1976 she initiated an action in the District Court in which she requested a mandatory order directing licensure, an injunction against interference with her right to practice, and a declaration that her civil rights had been violated.
The first two elements of relief, the real relief which she requested, namely licensure and the right to practice were identical to those which had been raised in the state case.
There had been no mention of section 1983 or federal civil rights in the prior state court actions.
The Federal District Court denied the request for licensure, denied the request for an injunction against interference with her practice, but did give judgment that the Board of Regents had violated her civil rights through the failure to offer her a hearing on her application for a waiver of the examination failures and in failing to give her the reasons for the denial of her application.
The petitioner appealed from that decision, no cross-appeal was filed, and the licensure and practice issue therefore are not before the Court.
William H. Rehnquist:
Mr. Meserve, I notice that in your brief you rely on the full faith and credit statute enacted by Congress, 20 U.S.C. 1738, saying that full faith and credit --