New Mexico Legislature Should Eliminate Discriminatory Law and Useless Licensing Board, says Civil Rights Law Firm

John Kramer
John Kramer · January 25, 2007

Arlington, Va.—The New Mexico Legislature should do away with an unconstitutional law that censors the speech of interior designers and promotes the anti-competitive agenda of a small faction within the interior design industry. Further, the licensing Board that enforces the absurd, anti-competitive restrictions should be abolished. Both recommendations come from the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that defends individuals whose most basic civil rights come under attack from discriminatory regulations.

On September 7, 2006, the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on behalf of two entrepreneurs challenging the New Mexico Interior Design Board’s licensing law as a violation of free speech rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The suit has been placed on hold during the current legislative session, which opened January 16 and runs until March 17, to give the Legislature an opportunity to correct the defective licensing law without a court order.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the Legislature to scrub these blatantly anti-competitive regulations off the books in New Mexico,” said Jennifer Perkins, an IJ-AZ staff attorney. “New Mexicans should not have their civil rights violated just to protect a politically connected cartel.”

New Mexico officials have conceded that the current interior designers licensing law presents serious constitutional concerns. The law in question bans the truthful exchange of information between interior designers and consumers by forbidding individuals who practice interior design from calling themselves “interior designers” or using the words “interior design” unless they first obtain an expensive and increasingly difficult-to-secure license. Thus, while State law allows anyone to practice interior design, only a select few are allowed to use the words “interior design” or “interior designer” to describe what they do. The law is a naked attempt by a cartel of interior designers who happen to possess certain credentials to put competitors with different credentials and experience out of business.

Recognizing the serious constitutional problems presented by the censorship provisions of the licensing law, the Board agreed not to enforce the law and to voluntarily seek an injunction from the court forbidding the Board from enforcing the law while the Board works with the Legislature to remedy the constitutional defects identified in the lawsuit.

“The Legislature should certainly eliminate not only this protectionist scheme but also eliminate the Interior Design Board altogether,” added Perkins. “All the Board does is waste taxpayer dollars—at least $30,000 last year alone—to promote the anti-competitive agenda of an interior designer cartel by censoring its competitors.”

A case study released in September by the Institute for Justice documents a long-running campaign by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and other insider organizations to increase regulation of the interior design industry in order to “increase the stature of the industry” and put would-be competitors out of business. The nationwide push for more regulation of interior designers has come not from the public or the government, but from members of the industry itself. (To read the study, visit /images/pdf_folder/economic_liberty/Interior-Design-Study.pdf.)

“By striking down this protectionist licensing law, New Mexico will save taxpayers money, do away with a politically connected cartel and set interior designers free,” concluded Clark Neily, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. “Discriminatory laws like this do nothing to protect consumers and instead limit choices, drive up costs and destroy opportunities for entrepreneurs. Simply put, they should be repealed. Let’s hope that is exactly what the New Mexico Legislature does.”

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.”