Judge Says Entrepreneurs May Continue Casket Sales

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 12, 2000

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge today ruled that casket retailers in Tennessee may continue operating their businesses pending the State’s appeal of a recent trial court order declaring Tennessee’s state-created casket monopoly unconstitutional. On August 21, Judge R. Allen Edgar of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee held that requiring individuals who sell caskets from retail locations to obtain a funeral director’s license—which requires two years of training and the passage of a licensing exam—violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Despite Judge Edgar’s well-reasoned and detailed trial opinion, on September 20, the State appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and simultaneously asked Judge Edgar to stay his order during the appeal. A stay would have prevented the Institute for Justice’s clients from selling caskets and urns during the lengthy appeals process, after emerging victorious from an eleven-month fight in the trial court to operate their businesses. During that battle, the Institute’s clients were not allowed to sell caskets and urns, but their businesses have been thriving since Judge Edgar’s ruling freed them to do so.

In today’s opinion, Judge Edgar stood firmly behind his August ruling, writing, “Although defendants now contend that this Court acted beyond the scope of its authority as a ‘super-legislature,’ the Court assures the parties that it carefully considered all evidence presented at trial and thoroughly applied the proper standard of review.” Additionally, he found that the public interest would be best served by “an enhanced ability to choose products and a larger market to control costs” that would stem from allowing our clients to remain in business.

Responding to the decision, Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice and lead counsel on this case, said, “Entrepreneurs and consumers can cheer the judge’s ruling.”

Miranda Perry, an Institute attorney who is also working on the case, said, “Now that our clients are free from the State’s meddling, we are looking forward to vindicating their rights before the Sixth Circuit.”