IJ Wins Another Case For Entrepreneurs

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 13, 2003

Washington, D.C.IJ has another economic liberty victory in the bank!

The State of Tennessee has decided not to appeal the Institute for Justice’s 6th Circuit Court of Appeals victory on behalf of independent casket retailers. This makes its win in the federal appeals court on behalf of Pastor Nathaniel Craigmiles and the other casket sellers the highest pro-economic liberty decision in court since the New Deal.

The State had been given 60 days (until March 5, 2003) to appeal from the 6th Circuit’s unanimous decision upholding a lower court ruling, which found the licensing scheme concocted by the State was unconstitutional. The Court found that the only difference between caskets sold by the government-enforced cartel and those of independent casket retailers is that the cartel’s caskets were consistently higher in price, and therefore there was no need for independent retailers to take the years of study (at an expense of thousands of dollars), which includes having to embalm 25 bodies, all to sell what amounted to “a box.”

“This case will be a foundation for future economic liberty victories,” said Chip Mellor, IJ’s president and general counsel, who litigated the case. “Entrepreneurs in many fields will use this case as a precedent to strike down other arbitrary restrictions on their right to earn an honest living.”

“The government’s good old boy network drove me into bankruptcy, but now I’ll finally be able to help my parishioners and others cut their funeral costs,” said lead plaintiff Pastor Craigmiles. “We’re looking forward to getting back into business and staying there for good.”

Opening Markets

Would-be entrepreneurs from across the nation have found their right to earn an honest living under attack from a powerful but no-longer surprising adversary: the government. What is surprising, however, is that, with the help of the Institute for Justice, these entrepreneurial Davids are scoring victories over the government Goliath. IJ has now succeeded in striking down many anti-competitive laws that have blocked out economic and political outsiders, like Pastor Craigmiles.

While there may be a legitimate role for limited regulations that are carefully tailored to protect the public’s health and safety, many of the regulations burdening entrepreneurs have nothing to do with those concerns but rather are purposefully designed to limit entry. They are all about limiting competition and stifling opportunity. Since its creation, the Institute for Justice has succeeded in convincing the courts to lift regulatory barriers to entry while allowing other common sense regulations designed to protect the public’s health and safety to remain in place. Over the past 11 years, IJ has scored significant victories on behalf of entrepreneurs and in the process opened up long-closed markets. In addition to its work with casket retailers, these include:

Swedenburg v. Kelly—A federal judge declared unconstitutional New York state’s laws that barred the interstate direct shipment of wine into New York. IJ filed the suit on behalf of Virginia vintner Juanita Swedenburg who fought New York’s discrimination against out-of-state wineries that want to ship to in-state consumers. New York had barred out-of-state wineries from shipping to New York consumers while in-state wineries were under no such restriction.

Uqdah v. D.C. Board of Cosmetology—Although they lost in court, Taalib Din Uqdah and his wife Pamela Farrell prevailed against the District of Columbia to eliminate a 1938 Jim Crow-era licensing law for African hairbraiders when the District subsequently deregulated cosmetology. Today, Uqdah and Farrell operate a successful hairbraiding business in D.C. and have founded the American Hairbraiders and Natural Haircare Association (AHNHA) to fight unjust licensing laws across the nation. They have contributed to the elimination of hairbraiding licensing laws in 14 states and counting.

Jones, et. al. v. Temmer, et. al.—Leroy Jones, Ani Ebong and Girma Molalegne opened Freedom Cabs, Inc., in Denver after IJ helped them overcome Colorado’s protectionist taxicab monopoly. Stemming from pressure in the court of public opinion created by their lawsuit, the state legislature enabled Freedom Cabs to become the first new cab company in Denver in nearly 50 years. Jones’s testimony also contributed to the breakdown of government-sanctioned taxicab monopolies in Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Cornwell v. California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology—JoAnn Cornwell, who chairs the Africana Studies Department at San Diego State University and who created the Sisterlocks technique of hairbraiding and locking, defeated the cosmetology licensing requirement for African hairbraiders in California.

Ricketts v. City of New York—Hector Ricketts operates Queens Van Plan, a small business providing inexpensive, safe and reliable transportation to residents of New York’s boroughs. With IJ’s help, Ricketts’s business has continued to put people to work and take people to work in underserved neighborhoods of the metropolitan area. Former mayor Guiliani voiced his support for the van drivers and worked with them to fill gaps in service when the public transportation union went on strike. Ricketts provided invaluable free shuttle service to workers and victims’ families at Ground Zero after the September 11 tragedy.

Clutter v. Transportation Services Authority—William Clutter, John West and Rich Lowre successfully stood up to Las Vegas’s Transportation Services Authority (TSA) and entrenched limousine companies that had stifled competition. A Nevada court ruled in 2001 that the TSA’s cooperation with existing companies to block new entrants was unconstitutional.