Texas Supreme Court Will Hear Landmark Economic Liberty Case

John Kramer
John Kramer · January 16, 2014

Austin, Texas—The right to earn an honest living in Texas will soon be argued before the Texas Supreme Court. At issue in the case is the future of five “eyebrow threaders”—who use cotton thread to remove unwanted eyebrow hair—and whether the state government can impose arbitrary, irrational and anti-competitive licensing requirements, which have forced many threaders out of business.

Late yesterday, the Court agreed to hear the appeal of threaders put out of work by the state’s requirement that they attend a 750-hour training course on conventional cosmetology techniques like waxing and facial massage, take two tests on conventional cosmetology techniques, and pay for it all with their own money, none of which has anything to do with the honest living they seek to earn.

The case began in 2008, when the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation decided that threading—a traditional South Asian practice that uses only cotton thread to remove eyebrow hair by gliding it across the surface of the skin—is the same thing as conventional Western-style cosmetology. The Department issued $2,000 penalties to threaders across the state and ordered them to quit their jobs until they completed coursework in private beauty schools costing between $9,000 and $20,000.

Three threaders and two threading-business owners joined with the Institute for Justice and sued the Department in 2009, arguing that the Texas Constitution prohibits useless and expensive training requirements that do nothing to protect the public. Two lower courts ruled in favor of the Department.


“The government cannot force people to do useless things,” said lead attorney Wesley Hottot of the Institute for Justice. “Many of Texas’s eyebrow threaders have decades of experience. They cannot be put out of a job and forced to pay for schooling in beauty techniques they do not use. That isn’t just wrong. It’s unconstitutional.”

“I am thrilled we will have our day in the state’s highest court,” said Ash Patel, one of the plaintiffs in the case and owner of an eyebrow threading business forced to close its doors by the new regulations. “Eyebrow threading is an ancient technique. It’s painless. It’s even safer than using tweezers. No chemicals, dyes or sharp objects are used in eyebrow threading. And that’s why I don’t understand why the state of Texas wants to regulate us.”

“Texas has long been a beacon for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Hottot continued. “But that proud heritage is in danger as long as state officials can require meaningless training requirements for your job.”

“I grew up in India and I found it difficult to land on a good opportunity to start my own business,” said Patel. “That’s why I came to Texas. I am only asking for a fair chance to pursue my American Dream free from needless government regulation.”

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on February 27, 2014, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Hill County Courthouse (1 North Waco Street, in Hillsboro, Texas).

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