New Orleans, La.—May the city of New Orleans subject local tour guides to hundreds of dollars in fines and five months in jail for engaging in unauthorized talking?
This is the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) seeks to answer in a federal lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Four area tour guides are joining forces with IJ to strike down New Orleans’ tour guide licensing scheme as a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights.
“The government cannot be in the business of deciding who may speak and who may not,” said Matt Miller, lead counsel in the lawsuit and attorney with the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm with a history of defending free speech and the rights of entrepreneurs. “The Constitution protects your right to communicate for a living, whether you are a journalist, a musician or a tour guide.”
New Orleans requires every tour guide to pass a history exam, undergo a drug test and pass an FBI criminal background check every two years merely for speaking. People who give tours without a license face fines up to $300 per occurrence and five months in jail.
Four New Orleans tour guides—Candance Kagan, Mary LaCoste, Joycelyn Cole and Annette Watt—are filing today’s lawsuit because they believe the First Amendment protects their right to communicate for a living.
Candance Kagan is a New Orleans native and tour guide who survived Hurricane Katrina. She said, “I’m being knocked out of business again, this time by the city I love.”
Today’s lawsuit is part of a larger, national effort to protect the rights of individuals that speak for a living. The Institute for Justice has challenged tour-guide licensing schemes in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., receiving significant national media attention, including coverage from All Things Considered and the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Importantly, these lawsuits will help secure the free speech of people nationwide who speak for a living, including newspaper reporters and stand-up comedians as well as tour guides.
Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide. For more information on today’s lawsuit, including a one-stop-shopping case backgrounder and high-res images of the clients, please visit www.IJ.org/NOLATours.