A retired engineer is suing the North Carolina Board of Examiners (NCBELS), claiming that they are violating his First Amendment right to speak freely about engineering matters.
According to Reason Magazine, Wayne Nutt worked previously as an engineer at DuPont, where he was not required to be licensed due to the "Industrial Exemption" for engineers in North Carolina.
He recently provided expert witness testimony for a civil court case that his son Kyle is litigating on behalf of a group of homeowners. Using his own calculations, he testified in a deposition about the capacity and stormwater flow of the drainage system that the homeowners were alleging was causing their properties to flood.
The defense counsel subsequently confronted him about his lack of licensure, saying that he was not qualified to testify on engineering matters without an engineering license. They also threatened to report him to the NCBELS for practicing engineering without a license.
Kyle Nutt subsequently contacted the NCBELS to confirm that his father's testimony would not be considered "practicing engineering", but an attorney for the Board confirmed to him in writing that this unfortunately was the case. Not only was Wayne not allowed to serve as an expert witness on engineering matters, he could be convicted of a misdemeanor, fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to 60 days in jail.
The Board later contacted Wayne Nutt and notified him that he was now under investigation for the testimony that he provided for his son Kyle's litigation.
Wayne is now suing the NCBELS, seeking an injunction against the Board to prevent them from prosecuting an unlicensed individual who may speak or testify about engineering matters.
He is being represented not by his son Kyle, but by attorneys from the Institute of Justice. This is a non-profit libertarian public interest law firm which is against licensure requirements for any profession or occupation. Over the last few years they have pushed model legislation at the state level which would severely weaken the requirements for professional licensing.
By suing the NCBELS, they are now getting lots of publicity and media coverage. This allows them to present their case (and their political agenda) to the public outside the courtroom.
This is not the first time that the NCBELS has faced public controversy. In my online course Engineering Ethics On Trial, I present a case study involving a company that did actually practice engineering without a license in North Carolina. To my surprise, not only was the NCBELS powerless to take legal action against the company, but many municipalities in the state continued to do business with them afterwards!
What's more surprising is that the NCBELS case study is not the most shocking case study in that course- it might actually be the least shocking one. That's because I wanted to create an Engineering Ethics course that was anything but boring. So, I selected four of the most unbelievable Engineering Ethics cases in the news and created a case study for each.
The result is Engineering Ethics On Trial. This online video course is available as a 1 PDH course, or in a 2 PDH bundle pack that includes either Ohio Engineering Ethics or Ohio and Kentucky Engineering Ethics.
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