The Institute - June 2019 - 14



U.S. Judge Decides
Järlström's Constitutional
Rights Were Infringed



JUN 2019



a generic meaning separate from professional engineer
and that the term has enjoyed widespread usage in job
titles in our society to describe positions which require no
professional training."
Järlström told The Institute, "This case has always been
about more than just me, and I'm thrilled that the court has
put a stop to some of the engineering board's worst abuses.
Being an engineer is a big part of my identity, as it is for many
people. Thousands of Oregonians are engineers-even
though we have no reason to be licensed as professional
engineers-and we are now free to use the word engineer to
describe ourselves."

The judge is correct. The
term engineer is a generic
one and applies to anyone who has received an
engineering education. For
the positions that require
licensing from the state, a
proper and unambiguous designation should
be "licensed engineer."
I agree with the ruling, but
I also feel like too many
times people have been
attaching the word engineer to their title to market
themselves beyond their
capabilities. Many consultants call themselves and
their employees "project
engineers" which, conveniently, is abbreviated as
P.E., the same abbreviation

that professional engineers use. It does seem like
there was a bit of deception on the individual's
part. If you graduated with
a degree in audio engineering, why not use that title
instead of the broader title
of engineer when presenting at a conference where
the vast majority will be
licensed civil engineers.
-Joseph Taft
This is a very interesting discussion. In my country and
in Spanish, the term engineer describes only a person
with the proper university diploma and professional accreditation from
the country's Ministry
of Justice and Education.
However, sometimes you


that the state of Oregon illegally infringed on Mats
Järlström's First Amendment rights when it fined him US $500
because he wrote "I am an engineer" in correspondence
critiquing the state's traffic-light timing.
Järlström [pictured above] has an engineering degree,
and his chosen field of interest is audio engineering and
product design. He is not, however, a registered civil engineer practicing in the field of traffic engineering. Nor does
he claim to be.
The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering
and Land Surveying fined him in January 2017 for violating a state law that governs who may call themselves an
engineer, finding he wasn't an Oregon-registered professional engineer. Järlström sued the board, which last June
admitted that its interpretation of the law had violated
his rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution's First
Amendment. Järlström and his attorney from the Institute
for Justice countered that the state's proposed settlement
didn't go far enough. They asked a U.S. district court to take
a broad look at the state law and its administrative rules
and declare them unconstitutional.
In a written ruling issued 28 December, Judge Stacie
F. Beckerman found the board has a "history of overzealous
enforcement actions" and called its restrictions on the use of
the word engineer "substantially overbroad" and in violation
of the First Amendment.
Beckerman declared that Järlström may study and
communicate publicly or privately about his theories relating to traffic lights, as long as his remarks occur outside
the context of any employment or contractual relationship with a governmental or other group that changes or
implements or has final approval to change or implement
traffic-light timing without the review and acceptance of
responsibility by an Oregon-licensed professional engineer.
The judge also wrote, "The term engineer, standing
alone, is neither actually nor inherently misleading.
"Courts have long recognized that the term engineer has

The Institute - June 2019

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