Remember that engineer who got fined because he called himself an engineer in a complaint to the state official about the incorrect timing of U.S. traffic lights? Well, he took the matter to the court and now granted by a judge a temporary right to both publicly call himself an ‘engineer’ and to talk about traffic lights.
As ridiculous as it may sound, but Mats Järlström is now being punished for trying to correct a traffic light system that got his wife a ticket in 2013. Since then, he studied the math behind the timing of the traffic lights, and later presented his investigation to the Oregon State Board through an e-mail. In it, he called himself an engineer.
Unfortunately for Mats, the state board probed him and discovered that he is practicing as an engineer in Oregon without registration. Mats had his formal electrical engineering education in Sweden, worked as an electronics engineer there, and later moved to the U.S. in 1992.
In his defense, Mats said, “I’m not practicing engineering, I’m just using basic mathematics and physics, Newtonian laws of motion, to make calculations and talk about what I found.”
Feeling that he was deprived of his First Amendment right to free speech, Mats filed a federal lawsuit in US District Court in Portland, Oregon with the help of Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law group.
And now a judge gave him the temporary right to call himself an engineer, pending the results of his case.
“Plaintiff Järlström may study, communicate publicly about, and communicate privately his theories relating to traffic lights throughout the pendency of this litigation as long as [his] communications occur outside the context of a paid employment or contractual relationship,” Anna Brown, a federal district court judge for the district of Oregon, ordered.
He “may describe himself publicly and privately using the word ‘engineer’ throughout the pendency of this litigation,” she added.
While many supported Mats in this case, there are others who sided with the state engineering boards, saying that fining him for practicing as an engineer without license is just right.
Sam Gedge, Mats’ lawyer at the Institute for Justice, said that that is nonsense.
“Under the First Amendment, you don’t need to be a licensed lawyer to write an article critical of a Supreme Court decision, you don’t need to be a licensed landscape architect to create a gardening blog, and you don’t need to be a licensed engineer to talk about traffic lights,” Gedge said.