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North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission

United States Supreme Court
135 S. Ct. 1101 (2015)


The North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners (Board) (defendant) was a statutory body created to regulated dental practice in North Carolina. The Board consisted of eight members, six of whom were statutorily required to be practicing dentists. The statute did not mention the practice of teeth-whitening. The Board sent cease-and-desist letters to all non-licensed dentists engaged in the practice of teeth-whitening, claiming that teeth-whitening constituted the practice of dentistry and thus required a license. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought an administrative action against the Board, claiming a violation of § 5 of the FTC Act. The Board filed a motion to dismiss based on the state-action doctrine. The FTC argued that the Board could not take advantage of state-action immunity because the Board’s composition meant that it was not a state entity, and it was not adequately supervised by the state. The Board argued that its teeth-whitening policy constituted state action and active state supervision was not necessary to invoke the immunity. An administrative law judge denied the motion and found that the Board violated the FTC Act. The FTC affirmed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

Dissent (Alito, J.)

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