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Sammon v. New Jersey Bd. of Medical Examiners

September 15, 1995

ALICE SAMMON; MICHAEL AND STEFANIA SANTOMENNA; TRACY LEAL AND TOM QUINN, TONY AND VICKI DIIOIA AND LANDIE SIMONE, APPELLANTS

v.

NEW JERSEY BOARD OF MEDICAL EXAMINERS; STATE OF NEW JERSEY, CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, GOVERNOR, STATE OF NEW JERSEY



Appeal from the United States District Court For the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil No. 94-cv-00958)

BEFORE: STAPLETON and COWEN, Circuit Judges, and HUYETT, District Judge *fn*

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge

(Caption amended per the Clerk's 9/26/94 order)

Argued February 17, 1995

filed September 15, 1995)

OPINION OF THE COURT

This case presents a substantive due process challenge to several provisions of a New Jersey licensing statute regulating the practice of midwifery. The plaintiffs/appellants are several aspiring midwives, a midwife not presently licensed by the State of New Jersey, and several couples who wish to employ a midwife to assist with the birth of their next child. We hold that the New Jersey statute passes constitutional muster.

I.

A person is "regarded as practicing midwifery" under New Jersey's statute if he or she "attends a woman in childbirth as a midwife, or advertises as such." *fn1 N.J. Stat. Ann. Section(s) 45:10-1. Persons wishing to practice midwifery in New Jersey first must obtain a midwifery license from the state board of medical examiners. N.J. Stat. Ann. Section(s) 45:10-2. Candidates for a license must pass an examination designed "to test the scientific and practical fitness of candidates to practice midwifery," N.J. Stat. Ann. 45:10-5, *fn2 and must complete an application evidencing, inter alia, that they are of good moral character, and that they have "received a certificate or diploma from a legally incorporated school of midwifery, or maternity hospital, in good standing . . ., after at least eighteen hundred hours' instruction within a period of not less than nine months." N.J. Stat. Ann. Section(s) 45:10-3. *fn3 Candidates also must get a physician registered in the State of New Jersey to indorse their application. Id.

Appellant Alice Sammon, though not licensed in New Jersey, has a nursing degree from a certified nursing school and substantial apprenticeship training as a midwife. She has assisted in several hundred births and is registered as a midwife with the North American Registry of Midwives. Appellants Michael and Stefania Santomenna, Tracy Leal and Tom Quinn, and Tony and Vicki DiIoia (the "parents") are couples who plan to expand their families and desire to employ midwives to assist them with home births. Appellants Vicki DiIoia, Leal, and Landi Simone (the "aspiring midwives") intend, if permitted, to pursue careers as midwives in New Jersey.

Appellants filed suit under 42 U.S.C. Section(s) 1983 against the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners and Governor Christine Todd Whitman, claiming that the licensing scheme violates their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. They sought injunctive relief against enforcement of the statute. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and appellants filed this timely appeal.

II.

A.

The district court ruled that the aspiring midwives lacked standing to challenge the New Jersey statutory scheme because they had "made only wholly conclusory allegations that they aspire to become midwives," and had not alleged that they had "approached physicians and been denied sponsorship, or attempted to enroll in any one of thirty out of state mid-wife schools, or applied for a license to be a midwife, or sought out a registered maternity hospital." (Dist. Ct. Op. at 6.) The Supreme Court has held that "when standing is challenged on the basis of the pleadings, [courts must] 'accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and . . . construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party.'" Pennell v. San Jose, 485 U.S. 1, 7 (1988) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975)); see generally Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). Accordingly, for purposes of deciding the issue of standing at this stage of the case, we must accept as true the aspiring midwives' claims (1) that they sincerely desire to become midwives, ...


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