Economic Liberty
First Amendment
Occupational Licensing
Occupational Speech

North Carolina Free Speech Oral Argument

  • After the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition told diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey he couldn’t give diet advice—whether paid or unpaid and whether on his blog or in private emails and calls—without a government-issued license, IJ stepped in to vindicate Steve’s rights.
  • The board argued offering advice and guidance on nutritional issues constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics. IJ argued the First Amendment does not allow the government to ban people from sharing dietary advice. Siding with the board, the district court dismissed Steve’s case, so IJ appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • In June 2013, a Fourth Circuit panel, which included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, unanimously held that it had “no trouble deciding that [Steve’s] speech was sufficiently chilled by the actions of the State Board to show a First Amendment injury-in-fact.” The appellate court vacated the dismissal, allowing Steve’s case to go forward. In 2015, the state board surrendered and issued new guidelines making clear that Steve and others like him have the right, for free or for pay, to give dietary advice.
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Attorney Who Argued The Case