Staring down in-state protectionism

The Supreme Court will consider whether to grant certiorari in the case of National Association of Optometrists & Opticians v. Harris, in which national eyewear companies are challenging a California regulation that works to the benefit of their locally based competitors. The Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief supporting certiorari, as Ilya Shapiro explains:

Under California’s Business and Professions Code, state-licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists are allowed to conduct eye exams and sell glasses at their place of business, while commercial retailers – such as the national eyewear chains represented by the NAOO – are barred from furnishing onsite optometry services. Since consumers have a strong preference for “one stop shopping” – buying their glasses at the same place where they have their eye exams – California’s law gives instate retailers a crucial competitive advantage. Businesses that cannot co-locate their services have quickly vanished from the market.

The Cato brief argues that by putting the out-of-state chains at an artificial regulatory disadvantage, California is violating the Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause.


  • Would Cato support a similar argument by, say, a Texas-licensed attorney who wanted to practice law in California state courts without subjecting himself to the California bar?

  • Chip, the laws of optics are the same in Texas as in California. The statutes and state constitutions, the man-made laws, are different.

  • Chip, the law prohibits California optometrists from operating at the same location as the commercial retailer. Those same optometrists are permitted to conduct their own sales activities within the state.