The National Society of Professional Engineers is disappointed by the US Supreme Court’s February 25, 2015, decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission and is committed to taking all actions necessary to guard the public from the chilling effect this ruling will have on the ability of state engineering licensure boards to effectively protect the public health, safety and welfare.
The vital public-interest role served by the professional licensure of engineers is clear. Licensure ensures that the people who build our roads, buildings, and bridges; who design our vehicles and machinery to operate safely; and who we rely upon for the secure and environmentally sound operations of our pipelines and other utilities, are not only competent to do so, but accountable to the public’s interest above all other considerations.
No one questions the contribution made by licensed professional engineers, who clearly understand the expertise needed to practice engineering and often serve on state licensure boards. Their contributions to these boards are integral to the competent and technically informed decisions on how the public welfare can best be protected.
The Supreme Court’s decision will have the unintended consequence of discouraging highly competent licensed professional engineers from serving on state engineering licensure boards (as well as state engineering licensure board committees and task forces) due to personal liability uncertainty and concern. The decision also jeopardizes the role of state engineering licensure boards and their members in exercising technical and professional judgment and discretion in questions relating to the practice of professional engineering.
NSPE, as an integrated network of national and state societies working in collaboration, will actively pursue legislative and regulatory corrections to ensure the continued ability of state licensure boards to fully protect the public.
Since the enactment of the first state professional engineering licensure law in Wyoming in 1907 (and more recently in such matters as the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapse hearings, the Texas A&M bonfire investigations, and the Deepwater Horizon inquiry), state engineering licensure boards and the professional engineers who serve on those boards have played a vital role in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. NSPE is committed to ensuring that the US Supreme Court decision on February 25 is not allowed to weaken state engineering licensure board legal and regulatory enforcement mechanisms.