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Victory for Utah Private Investigator Arrives Faster Than Magnum, P.I.’s Ferrari

If ’80s television crime-stopper Thomas Magnum, P.I., had come to Utah earlier this year to crack a case, the state would have told him the same thing it told IJ client and real-life private investigator Jeremy Barnes: Hit the road. That’s because Magnum hails from Hawaii, and Jeremy lives three minutes across the Utah border in rural Idaho. And, until this past June, Utah was the only state in the country with a residency requirement for private investigators, hoarding all investigative work for Utah residents and discriminating against outsiders like Jeremy.

After 12 years as a police officer, Jeremy moved to the small town of Franklin, Idaho, with his wife and twin daughters. Wanting an entrepreneurial change, Jeremy opened Mission Investigations Group. But when he tried to expand his business into the nearby city of Logan, Utah, he stumbled upon a crime against economic liberty: Utah refused to give him a P.I. license because he isn’t a state resident.

Jeremy didn’t need his top-notch investigative skills to track down the culprit. In 2011, the Private Investigators Association of Utah lobbied the Legislature to keep “unqualified out-of-state competitors from taking Utah jobs.” Utah-licensed lawyers who live in Idaho can argue before the state Supreme Court. Utah-licensed doctors who live in Idaho can save lives in Salt Lake City. But the Utah private investigator cartel would have you believe that anyone who’s not a Utah resident is unqualified to work there as a private eye.

That’s blatant protectionism. And it’s unconstitutional. As recently as last summer, in IJ’s victory for Tennessee small-business owners Doug and Mary Ketchum, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not discriminate against out-of-state residents based on “unalloyed protectionism.”

That’s why Jeremy fought back. In April, he teamed up with IJ to challenge Utah’s residency requirement so that he—and others—can earn an honest living without government getting in the way. And just two months later, the governor signed the repeal of the residency requirement—effective immediately. That means that Jeremy and IJ accomplished something that Magnum never managed: knocking out injustice in the real world.

Richard Hoover is an IJ constitutional law fellow.

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