New Mexico Ends Unconstitutional Censorship of Interior Designers

John Kramer
John Kramer · April 6, 2007

Arlington, Va.—Earlier this week, the State of New Mexico eliminated an unconstitutional restriction on the free speech of interior designers by amending legislation that prohibited many interior designers from truthfully advertising their services. Senate Bill 535, signed into law by Governor Richardson on April 3, was introduced in response to a federal lawsuit brought by the Institute for Justice in September 2006 on behalf of two New Mexico interior designers who were forbidden from accurately advertising their services because they did not hold what amounts to a “free speech license” from the New Mexico Interior Design Board. The challenged law allowed anyone to work as an interior designer but made it a crime for people not licensed by the Board to use the terms “interior design” and “interior designer.” The new legislation permits anyone who practices interior design to use that term, but creates a new category called “licensed interior designer” for those who meet certain credentials.

“The government has no business preventing interior designers from providing truthful information about their services to potential customers,” declared Jennifer Perkins, staff attorney with the Institute for Justice. “We applaud New Mexico’s recognition of citizens’ First Amendment right to free speech by eliminating this blatant censorship of interior designers.”

So-called “title” laws like New Mexico’s, which prevent people who lawfully perform interior design work from using that term to describe what they do, are the result of relentless lobbying campaigns by a small faction within the interior design community, as the Institute demonstrated in its study prepared by Director of Strategic Research Dick Carpenter, “Designing Cartels: How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition.” This small faction of industry insiders, unwilling to compete on a level playing field in a free market, pursues government overregulation in a naked attempt to demote their competitors to mere “decorators” or “consultants” by preventing them from using the term “interior designer” without a license.

“Protectionist licensing laws such as New Mexico’s do nothing to protect consumers and instead limit choices, drive up costs, and eliminate fair competition in the marketplace,” explained Clark Neily, Institute for Justice senior attorney. “This is directly contrary to people’s right to earn an honest living in the occupation of their choice.

Mexico’s do nothing to protect consumers and instead limit choices, drive up costs, and eliminate fair competition in the marketplace. They have no place in a nation that prides itself on securing economic liberty and free speech as birthrights.”