Minneapolis, Minn,—Minneapolis—Today, the Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court for Hennepin Country ruled that veterinarians can use their political clout to shut out competitors such as Chris Johnson, a third-generation horse tooth floater who specializes in filing horses’ teeth. In its 51-page decision, the Court declared that Johnson must forego working in his family business unless he attends veterinary college—where only 30 minutes of training over 4 years is dedicated to basic dentistry—or pass a specialized test not offered in Minnesota. To qualify to take the test, he must float the teeth of 250 horses. In other words, Chris Johnson has to break the law in order to abide by it.
“It’s disappointing that the Court gave the green light to economic protectionism,” said Lee McGrath, executive director of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter. “This case shows the bankruptcy of occupational licensing and the absurd lengths that special interests will go to protect their business. Chris Johnson and IJ are challenging the very premise that politically connected groups can exclude competitors at will, and we are fighting for every Minnesotans’ right to earn an honest living.”
Chris Johnson is prohibited from working with his father in their traditional Minnesota family business unless he pays nearly $100,000 dollars to attend veterinary school. He was threatened with $3000 in fines and a year in jail if he didn’t stop providing his cost-effective horse-teeth floating service, which was about one-third the price that the cartel charges.
Johnson’s suit, filed in August 2006, challenged the state’s protectionist licensing scheme that blocks entry into his occupation of floating horse teeth—and does so solely for the economic benefit of politically connected veterinarians. The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine lobbied against legislation in 2005 and 2007 that would have opened the market to competition from niche providers like Johnson.
“Requiring horse teeth floaters to become veterinarians is outrageous,” said McGrath. “Floating a horse’s teeth is a basic skill that requires some hands-on training and common sense—not four years of veterinary school that teaches nearly nothing about horse teeth floating, or a certificate from a private trade association in Texas. Besides, Chris is already a third-generation floater. All he wants is the right to earn an honest living without arbitrary government interference. We are analyzing today’s lengthy decision closely and will be announcing our plans for appeal in the coming days.”
The lawsuit, Johnson v. Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine, is one of six cases in the IJ Minnesota Chapter’s campaign to restore economic liberty as a basic civil right under both the Minnesota state and U.S. constitutions. Already, IJ-MN has scored victories for economic liberty on behalf of African-style hairbraiders, family wineries, taxi drivers, sign-hangers and trash haulers.
The lawsuit, Johnson v. Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine, is the fifth case in the IJ Minnesota Chapter’s campaign to restore economic liberty as a basic civil right under both the Minnesota state and U.S. constitutions. Already, IJ-MN has scored victories for economic liberty on behalf of African-style hairbraiders, family wineries, sign-hangers and trash haulers. The civil rights group is currently litigating a sixth economic liberty case, defending Minneapolis’ free market taxi reforms.