This case arose when the brothers of Saint Joseph Abbey, a century-old Benedictine monastery in Covington, La., began to sell their handmade wooden caskets in late 2007 to support their educational and health care expenses. The state board moved to shut down the monks’ fledgling business before it sold even one casket because it was a crime in Louisiana for anyone but a government-licensed funeral director to sell caskets to the public. The monks and IJ brought suit in federal court on the ground that this arbitrary restriction served no legitimate public purpose and existed only to funnel money to the funeral-director cartel.
We won at the trial court in 2011 and at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013. In its landmark unanimous decision, the 5th Circuit said, “The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule or the context of its adoption nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for regulation.”
The 5th Circuit’s ruling is one of only a handful of federal appellate decisions since the New Deal to protect economic liberty and will benefit millions of Americans across the country struggling to earn an honest living under the weight of government licensing rules that create barriers to entry and suppress competition.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Board’s petition for review, so the 5th Circuit’s ruling now stands as a vitally important precedent in IJ’s Campaign for Economic Liberty. We will use it to challenge other irrational licensing schemes nationwide that do nothing more than protect industry insiders.