England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners

RESPONDENT: Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners
LOCATION: Cumberland Hospital

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 375 US 411 (1964)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1963
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1963 in England v. Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners

Earl Warren:

Number 7, Jerry R. England et al., Appellants, versus Louisiana State Board of Medical Examine -- Examiners et al.

Mr. Brown.

Russell Morton Brown:

Thank you, Your Honor.

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court, while this case involves many profound considerations of constitutional law, at this stage of the proceeding, we are concerned only with the matter of procedure.

The question basically is, what is the proper procedure for a three-judge federal court, which has entertained an action, raising questions of the constitutionality of a state statute under the Federal Constitution when it has remanded the parties to the state courts to secure a state court interpretation of the statute?

The question as to procedure is, shall the parties be required to come to this Court for review of the state court decision or may they return to the District Court to complete the litigation in the first place?

This case was brought by a large group of chiropractors in the State of Louisiana.

It was initiated in May of 1957 for the purpose of securing a judgment that the State Medical Practice Act was first, inapplicable to chiropractors.

Second, that it was unconstitutional in administration and finally that as drafted and as applied, the statute itself was a denial of rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution besides the Privileges and Immunities Clause, but basically, Fourteenth Amendment rights are here involved.

The District Court declined to prorogue a three-judge District Court as was requested and ruled that because there was no diversity of citizenship and because there was no serious question of constitution or law, which had not been settled, the Court was without jurisdiction.

That was the decision of the District Court declining to convene a three-judge court.

An appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and that court, by a divided bench, ruled that the complaint made out some cause of action and alleged a prima facie case of constitutional rights which had been violated.

Motion for rehearing was made and was the occasion for the courts writing a very extended discussion of the grounds by which the reversal was based.

Accordingly, in the District Court, a three-judge bench was convened.

The plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on a basis of voluminous documentation and information of a medical and scientific nature.

The court heard oral argument on all these points from both sides and without consultation or notice of any kind, proceeded to announce that it would abstain from passing upon the constitutional issues.

Some 27 years before, the state courts had decided that this docket was constitutional in an attack of somewhat limited but similar nature.

But what's the effect of the state statute to make chiropractors subject to state license?

Russell Morton Brown:

No, Your Honor, it is not.

It makes them criminals.

If they attempt to practice chiropractic in the State of Louisiana --

Without a license.

Russell Morton Brown:

Yes, and they're not entitled to a license under any circumstances under this statute.

Under no circumstances can a chiropractor ever qualify in the State of Louisiana.

He becomes a criminal while practicing or attempting to practice in (Voice Overlap) --

Earl Warren:

Why can't he qualify?

Russell Morton Brown:

I beg your pardon.

Earl Warren:

Why can't he qualify, I say?

Russell Morton Brown:

First, Your Honor, because the state statute requires that he take an examination and such subject to surgery and draw up some material, medical which they never use.

Second, the Board, which administers the statute, requires that no person can qualify unless he has a degree from a school approved by the American Medical Association.