After the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners ordered a veterinarian to stop providing veterinary advice over email and phone in violation of state law regarding telemedicine, the veterinarian filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of his First Amendment, equal-protection, and substantive-due-process rights. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim.
In 2017, Texas revised the state law to allow medical doctors, but not veterinarians, to practice some forms of telemedicine. The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that requiring employees at crisis pregnancy centers to notify women of low-cost services offered by the California clinics, including abortions, was unconstitutional. After these changes, the plaintiff brought this lawsuit alleging constitutional violations of equal protection and free speech. The district court once again dismissed the plaintiff’s claims and the plaintiff appealed.
To succeed on an Equal Protection claim, two groups must be similarly situated, yet the plainittif is treated differently. Because there is a rational basis to regulate medical doctors and veterinarians differently, the court ruled that the two are not similarly situated. The court affirmed the dismissal of the Equal Protection claim. First Amendment scrutiny is only given if the law regulates speech, not conduct. As such, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the case to allow the district court to determine whether the Texas law regulated conduct or speech of veterinarians.
Hines v. Quillivan, 2020 WL 7054278 (5th Cir. 2020).