Florida Interior Designers Free to Speak About Their Services

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · August 10, 2009

Tallahassee, Fla.—Today, Federal District Judge Robert L. Hinkle signed an agreed injunction that prevents the Florida’s State Board of Architecture and Interior Design from enforcing provisions of a Florida law that censored truthful speech by prohibiting people who lawfully perform residential interior design services without a government-conferred license from referring to themselves, accurately, as “interior designers” or from using other, unspecified “words to that effect.”  That ruling will stay in effect pending final resolution of a lawsuit challenging all aspects of Florida’s interior design law.

“The State should not be in the business of censoring interior designers’ speech and preventing entrepreneurs like our clients from finding work, particularly in the current economic climate,” said Clark Neily, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice.  “We are thrilled that our clients can now advertise their services accurately without fear of censorship or retribution from the State Board of Architecture and Interior Design.”

Only three states in the country regulate the practice of interior design in any way.  Those laws are the result of an aggressive lobbying campaign by industry insiders seeking to limit competition by legislating competitors out of business.  Florida has by far the most sweeping and aggressively enforced interior design law in the country, regulating not only the practice of interior design, but interior-design-related speech as well.

In May, the Institute for Justice joined with three interior designers and the National Federation of Independent Business to challenge Florida’s interior design law in federal court and eliminate this glaring violation of the right to earn a living free from arbitrary and unreasonable government interference.   As a result, Florida has become ground zero in a national struggle to prevent the monopolization of the interior design industry through anti-competitive occupational licensing laws. A recent Institute for Justice study, Designed to Exclude, shows how such regulations misuse government power to exclude minorities and burden consumers.  The report is available online: www.ij.org/2603

“Florida’s law has been standing in the way of my ability to launch my career,” explained Eva Locke, one of three interior designers challenging Florida’s law.  “In this economic downturn it is devastating to be forbidden from using the most accurate terms to describe myself and my services when I try to reach potential clients.  I am thrilled with today’s ruling and am confident the courts will ultimately recognize that my rights are more important that protecting special interest groups from fair competition.”

Besides the free-speech challenge to Florida’s title restriction, the Institute’s lawsuit challenges the interior design law limitations on the practice of interior design, which only two other states have and which study after study has shown has no connection whatsoever to any genuine public welfare concerns.

“Florida’s interior design law has nothing to do with protecting the public and everything to do with protecting state-licensed interior designers from fair competition,” declared Neily.  “Today’s injunction is an important step towards getting rid of Florida’s unfair, illegitimate and anti-competitive licensing law root and branch.”

Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice represents individuals nationwide fighting to defend free speech rights and the ability to earn an honest living in the occupations of their choice.  The Institute has previously and successfully challenged interior design title restrictions in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Connecticut.