Withrow v. Larkin Case Brief

Why is the case important?

“A physician in the State of Wisconsin, Withrow (Appellee), challenged the Wisconsin statutes which authorized the State’s Examining Board (Board) to investigate physicians and temporarily suspend their license.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Vesting the authority to investigate and adjudicate in the same agency does not violate due process.”

Facts of the case


Did the authority given to Appellants to investigate physicians, present charges, rule on those charges and present punishment (to the extent of reprimanding or temporarily suspending) violate Appellee’s due process rights?


“No. Reversed and remanded. The Board stayed within the accepted bounds of due process. Having investigated, it issued findings and conclusions asserting the commission of certain acts and ultimately concluding there was probable cause to believe the Appellee had violated the statutes. The risk of bias and prejudgment was not intolerably high. The initial determination of probably cause and the ultimate adjudication have different purposes

  • and the fact that same agency makes them in tandem and they relate to the same issues does not result in a procedural due process violation. Dissent. None. Concurrence. None.”


    The Court reversed the grant of the injunction and held that as the initial charge or determination of probable cause and the ultimate adjudication had different bases and purposes, the fact that the same agency made them in tandem and that they related to the same issue did not result in a procedural due process violation. The Court further held that the process utilized by Withrow did not in itself contain an unacceptable risk of bias, as no specific foundation had been presented for suspecting that appellants had been prejudiced by their investigation, or would have been disabled from hearing and deciding the issue of suspension based upon evidence to be presented at the suspension hearing.

    • Case Brief: 1975
    • Appellant: Withrow
    • Appellee: Larkin
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 421 US 35 (1975)
    Argued: Dec 18, 1974
    Decided: Apr 16, 1975