Tennessee Caskets

IJ Breaks Up Tennessee Casket Cartel;
Scores First Federal Appellate Victory for Economic Liberty Since New Deal
Craigmiles v. Giles

Reverend Nathaniel Craigmiles has been successful in his challenge to Tennessee's anti-competitive laws requiring a funeral director's license to sell caskets.

In December 2002, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the government cannot restrict individuals’ right to earn an honest living by imposing protectionist regulations.  The decision upheld a lower court finding that Tennessee’s government-imposed casket monopoly unconstitutionally violated the right of independent casket retailers to earn an honest living free from excessive government regulation.  The ruling is the first federal appeals court victory for economic liberty since it was gutted during the New Deal. 

Even though casket retailers don’t perform funerals and don’t handle dead bodies, the State of Tennessee had required anyone selling caskets in the state to secure a government-issued funeral director’s license, which required years of training at a cost of thousands of dollars and required individuals seeking the license to embalm 25 dead bodies.  The unlicensed sale of caskets was a crime in Tennessee and is still outlawed in nearly a dozen other states.  IJ’s clients, the Rev. Nathaniel Craigmiles and Tommy Wilson of Craigmiles Wilson Casket Supply in Chattanooga, and Angela Brent and Jerry Harwood of The Casket Store in Knoxville, were threatened with fines and jail time for selling caskets without a funeral director’s license.

IJ’s federal appeals court victory was not appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Urning an Honest Living: Casket Retailers Challenge Government-Enforced Cartel

Client Photo

Client Video - none available

Latest Release: IJ Wins Another Case For Entrepreneurs; Institute Closes the Lid on Tennessee’s Casket Cartel (March 13, 2003)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Decision: Victory: View Judge Boggs's Decision (December 6, 2002)

Launch Release: Urning An Honest Living: Casket Retailers Challenge Government-Enforced Cartel (September 16, 1999)

Decision: View Judge Allan Egar's Decision

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


September 16, 1999

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee



August 21, 2000: U.S. District Court Judge R. Allan Edgar struck down Tennessee’s government-imposed casket monopoly



December 6, 2002: 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the district court ruling

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Casket Case In Federal Appeals Court Could Close Lid on Cartels (December 6, 2002)


none available

Release: Casket Case In Federal Appeals Court Could Close Lid on Cartels (April 22, 2002)


Release: Judge Says Entrepreneurs May Continue Casket Sales
(October 12, 2000)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Litigation Brief: IJ Closes the Lid on Tennessee Casket Case (April 2003)

Release: Institute for Justice Victory for Casket Entrepreneurs Puts Nail in Coffin Of State-Imposed Monopoly (August 21, 2000)

Article: Score Two For the Underdogs: IJ Closes 2002 with Wine and Casket Victories Liberty & Law (February 2003)

Article: Burying The Casket Cartel; Liberty & Law (May 2002)

Article: IJ Victory Puts A Nail In State-Imposed Casket Monopoly; Liberty & Law (September 2000)

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