National Association of Optometrists v. Harris

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 06-13-2012
  • Case #: 10-16233
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hug for the court; Circuit Judges Paez and Berzon.
  • Full Text Opinion

A non-discriminatory regulation does not impose a “significant burden on interstate commerce,” in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, merely because it causes an incidental shift in profits to in-state entities from out-of-state entities operating in the state. In addition, absent a “significant burden,” courts need not determine whether statutory benefits are illusory, or whether less restrictive alternatives exist.

The Nat’l Assoc. of Optometrists and Opticians, and out-of-state entities Lenscrafters, and Eye Care Centers of Amer. (collectively “Plaintiffs”), alleged dormant Commerce Clause violations where non-discriminatory California laws prohibit opticians from providing, or advertising, prescription eyewear and eye examinations in the same location. On remand, the district court relied on Exxon to deny Plaintiffs’, and grant State’s, motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed. The laws at issue were “designed to prevent health care providers from being unduly affected by commercial interests.” The Ninth Circuit emphasized that proper inquiry should focus on the free flow of optical goods, not profits or where they are incorporated. The Ninth Circuit, also, applied Exxon, and did not find the challenged laws imposed a “significant burden on interstate commerce,” because (1) the Commerce Clause does not protect, (a) “preferred, more profitable method[s] of operating in a retail market”; in this case, one-stop-shopping; or (b) the profits of “particular interstate firms”; in this case, the incidental shift in market share from out-of-state opticians to in-state optometrists or ophthalmologists; (2) “any optician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist remains free to import eyewear originating anywhere into California and sell it there,” and (3) that selling eyewear is not an inherently national activity, thus interstate flow of optical goods would not suffer absent nationally uniform regulations. Because the non-discriminatory laws challenged here did not result in a significant burden on interstate commerce, the court did not then apply Pike’s “clearly excessive” burden test, weighing that burden against either putative local benefits, or actual local benefits, as argued by Plaintiffs. For the same reasons, neither dormant Commerce Clause analysis nor review of the decision below, compelled the court to determine whether the benefits of the statute were illusory, and whether less restrictive alternatives exist. AFFIRMED.

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