Turning a Landmark State Supreme Court Decision Into Legislative Reform
At IJ, we are not content with victory or defeat. On the legislative front, we are always looking for new opportunities to build on our litigation to expand individual liberty—and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in Georgia.
Last May, IJ secured a groundbreaking victory for economic liberty before the Georgia Supreme Court on behalf of lactation consultant Mary Jackson. IJ argued that a new law creating a burdensome license for lactation consultants unreasonably restricted Mary’s right to earn a living. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed and ruled that if the government wants to license an occupation, it must have a good reason for doing so. In other words, licensing laws must have a legitimate health or safety objective.
What happened next exemplifies our multipronged approach to public interest law, not just in Georgia but nationwide: State lawmakers took notice, and we are doing everything we can to build on this precedent to repeal other unnecessary licensing laws.
Last summer and fall, the Georgia Senate Study Committee on Occupational Licensing met several times to discuss ways to reduce licensing burdens and invited IJ to testify. At one hearing, we talked about what the state high court’s decision means for lawmakers: Because Georgia’s constitution firmly protects the right to earn a living, the General Assembly can’t take away a person’s economic liberty without a legitimate reason for doing so. We also shared IJ’s pathbreaking study License to Work, which documents how burdensome and harmful occupational licensing laws can be. The committee’s work culminated in a report that referenced our court victory and research and recommended sunsetting unnecessary licensing requirements.
This is an important step forward and shows how our litigation can lead to even greater change. And it’s only the beginning. When the Legislature returned in January, IJ was already there working closely with lawmakers to help them carry out the report’s recommendations—just as we are in other statehouses and city halls from coast to coast. We are committed to making sure courts and policymakers take seriously, and abide by, the legal precedents we set.
Meagan Forbes is IJ’s director of legislation and senior legislative counsel.
Also in this issue
Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!
Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.