Ohio Court Gives Hairbraiders First Step to Legal Victory

John Kramer
John Kramer · September 17, 1998

Washington, D.C. ­The Institute for Justice today announced an Ohio Federal Court ruling that allows a lawsuit filed by African-style hairbraiders against the State Board of Cosmetology to go forward. Judge George C. Smith of the Federal Southern District of Ohio yesterday explained that he wanted to hear all the evidence before deciding whether there is a rational basis for requiring African hair stylists to obtain cosmetology licenses.

The decision could not have come at a better time for Faith Carey, who will open her braiding business in a new location on October 3, 1998.

The Ohio State Board of Cosmetology claims that hundreds of African-style hairbraiders are “cosmetologists” and as cosmetologists, they must spend 1,500 hours (approximately nine months) and several thousand dollars to go to an approved cosmetology school and then pass a Board examination. Schools, instructors, and salons also must obtain licenses.

“The irony here is that cosmetology schools do not teach African-style hairbraiding and the licensing examination does not test it,” said Dana Berliner, a staff attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which represents for free the hairbraiders seeking to challenge the regulations. “In the name of protecting public health and safety, the Board of Cosmetology licenses people to braid hair who have no experience in braiding, yet it forbids others who are proficient from plying that trade.”

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to show how irrational these requirements are,” said Berliner. “Too often, government uses licensing regulations as a way of protecting existing business from competition. There is no justification for requiring braiders to go through one year of schooling that teaches them nothing about the occupation they want to practice.”

The Institute for Justice is a libertarian public interest law firm. Through strategic litigation, training, communications, and outreach, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. It litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech, and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government. Through these activities the Institute challenges the ideology of the welfare state and illustrates and extends the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of liberty is denied by government. The Institute was founded in September 1991 by William Mellor and Clint Bolick.