Louisiana Caskets

Institute for Justice Client Abbot Brown

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Saint Joseph Abbey, et al. v. Castille, et al.
Challenging Louisiana's Casket Cartel

This case arose when the brothers of Saint Joseph Abbey, a century-old Benedictine monastery in Covington, La., began to sell their handmade wooden caskets in late 2007 to support their educational and health care expenses. The state board moved to shut down the monks’ fledgling business before it sold even one casket because it was a crime in Louisiana for anyone but a government-licensed funeral director to sell caskets to the public. The monks and IJ brought suit in federal court on the ground that this arbitrary restriction served no legitimate public purpose and existed only to funnel money to the funeral-director cartel.  
We won at the trial court in 2011 and at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013.  In its landmark unanimous decision, the 5th Circuit said, “The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule or the context of its adoption nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for regulation.” 
The 5th Circuit’s ruling is one of only a handful of federal appellate decisions since the New Deal to protect economic liberty and will benefit millions of Americans across the country struggling to earn an honest living under the weight of government licensing rules that create barriers to entry and suppress competition. 
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Board’s petition for review, so the 5th Circuit’s ruling now stands as a vitally important precedent in IJ’s Campaign for Economic Liberty.  We will use it to challenge other irrational licensing schemes nationwide that do nothing more than protect industry insiders.



Essential Background


Backgrounder: Free the Monks and Free Enterprise: Challenging Louisiana’s Casket Cartel

Client Video

Client Photos

Latest Release: Victory Is Now Final For Louisiana Monks; U.S. Supreme Court Rejects State’s Petition Seeking To Overturn Landmark Constitutional Victory (October 15, 2013) Case Cartoon

Launch Release: Free the Monks and Free Enterprise: Challenging Louisiana’s Casket Cartel (August 12, 2010)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: Fifth Circuit Decision (March 20, 2013)


Download: Opinion Certifying Question to Louisiana Supreme Court (pdf)


Download: Trial Court Opinion (pdf)


Download: Complaint (pdf)


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 

August 12, 2010

Court Filed:


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

 Appeals Court:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit


  Next Key Date:

none available

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Louisiana Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn Casket-Making Monks’ Victory (July 18, 2013)

none available

Release: Appellate Court Issues Landmark Ruling in Favor of Louisiana Monks (March 20, 2013)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Release: Victory for the Monks in Federal Court of Appeals (October 24, 2012)

Article: Monks in Louisiana win right to sell handcrafted caskets; Los Angeles Times (October 19, 2013) 
Release: Louisiana Monks Win Casket Case (July 21, 2011) Article: A Benedictine abbey's battle against a Louisiana statute restricting such sales to funeral directors could reach the Supreme Court; MSN (July 22, 2013)
Release: Louisiana Monks Bring Casket Sales Challenge to Federal Court (June 3, 2011) Article: Burying crony capitalism: The courts strike a blow for economic freedom; The Washington Times (April 5, 2013)

Release: Free the Monks:  Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Casket Case (April 11, 2011)

Article: Louisiana monks go to court to sell their caskets; The Washington Post (May 29, 2012)

Article: St. Joseph Abbey monks suing for right to sell caskets scheduled to go to trial Monday; Nola.com (June 1, 2011)
Article: Free the Monks and Free Enterprise; Liberty & Law (October 2010)

Article: Coffins Made With Brotherly Love Have Undertakers Throwing Dirt Wall Street Journal (August 25, 2010)

Video: Fox 8: Monks head to court to keep building coffins; WVUE- FOX (August 16, 2010)

Video: WDSU-6 NBC: Northshore monk sue state over casket business; WDSU-NBC (August 16, 2010)

Video: Challenging Louisiana's Casket Cartel in Federal Court - Press Conference; (August 13, 2010)

Article: St. Joseph Abbey's monks battle state funeral industry regulators for right to sell caskets Times Picayune (August 13, 2010)

Video: Free the Monks and Free Enterprise; (August 12, 2010)

Article: Benedictine monks suing Louisiana regulators over casket sales Times Picayune (August 12, 2010)

Op-ed: In defense of monks and free enterprise USA Today (August 12, 2010)
Article: North Shore monks suing to sell hand-made caskets New Orleans City Business (August 12, 2010)
Article: State Goes After Monks for the "Sin" of Selling Caskets National Catholic Register (August 12, 2010)
Op-ed: Free the monks, free entrepreneurs nationwide The Daily Caller (August 12, 2010)

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