Freedom Shines for Florida Interior Designers

October 7, 2009

IJ has more good news to share on our campaign to stop the cartelization of the interior design industry. Just weeks after taking down Connecticut’s interior design law, we struck another blow for liberty by securing a preliminary injunction in our challenge to an even more sweeping law in Florida. As a result, the state can no longer censor interior designers, and we are one step closer to “renovating” Florida into a more freedom-friendly state that fosters entrepreneurship rather than tying it up with red tape.

Three years ago, IJ announced it would take on the interior design cartel led by a group of elitist insiders called the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). ASID’s lobbying campaign represents one of the most blatant examples of interest group politics IJ has ever encountered.

After successful lawsuits in New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Oklahoma, we set our sights on the cartel’s crown jewel: Florida. Florida has the most sweeping interior design law in the country. To make matters even more egregious, the state farmed out enforcement of its law to a private law firm that acts as a kind of industry bounty hunter, going after people for even the most trivial perceived violations.

For example, Florida has an exemption that allows people to perform residential interior design work without a license, reserving the bigger, more lucrative commercial jobs for state-licensed interior designers. But people performing residential interior design work under the exemption are not allowed to use the term “interior designer” or other “words to that effect” (whatever those might be)—even when they are perfectly accurate. This led to hundreds of disciplinary actions against entrepreneurs for doing nothing more than truthfully describing work they lawfully perform.

Enter IJ’s strategic litigation campaign. Having already established through court rulings in our Texas and Connecticut cases that the government may not censor the truthful commercial speech of interior designers, we promptly filed a preliminary injunction motion targeting that provision of Florida’s law. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the State Board of Architecture and Interior Design did not even fight the injunction motion, but instead agreed to a court order that allows individuals to use the word “interior designer” and any other term that accurately describes work they lawfully perform in Florida.

That leaves the part of Florida’s law that requires a government-issued license to perform commercial interior design work. Given that there has never been a documented instance of harm from interior design in the 47 states that do not regulate the practice of interior design, it is quite clear that licensing interior designers has nothing to do with protecting the public and everything to do with protecting industry insiders from fair competition. We are going to prove that in court and show how Florida’s interior design law is riddled with constitutional defects from start to finish. By the time we are through, freedom will shine forth in the Sunshine State.

Clark Neily is an Institute senior attorney.

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