Author: Timothy Sandefur
Federal judge Audrey Flessig yesterday rejected Missouri’s effort to throw out the civil rights lawsuit brought by St. Louis entrepreneur Michael Munie against that state’s licensing law, that allows existing businesses to bar their own competition. “Plaintiffs claim that the ‘Competitors’ Veto’ scheme violates their liberty interest in pursuing their chosen occupation, without due process, because the procedure is arbitrary and irrational,” wrote Judge Flessig, “and denies Plaintiffs’ equal protection rights in that the procedure only applies to carriers of household goods and not carriers of other goods…. They are entitled to seek prospective injunctive relief against enforcement of an occupational certification procedure that is allegedly unconstitutional.”
The decision means that the case will proceed to discovery, which is significant because existing precedent is so dramatically biased against entrepreneurs and business owners that government often argues that they shouldn’t even have the opportunity to introduce evidence to make out their case. For example, one federal judge in Colorado held that once the government articulates some theory to justify the existence of a law, the plaintiff has no right even to show that that theory is nonsense. Jones v. Temmer, 829 F. Supp. 1226, 1236 (D. Colo. 1993). Although that case was vacated as moot on appeal, so that nobody is technically allowed to cite it, government attorneys often cite it anyway, to bolster their efforts to deny entrepreneurs their day in court. That’s what the state of Oregon did, for example, in our lawsuit challenging that state’s protectionist licensing law. The court ruled against that effort, and it’s very gratifying that Judge Flessig also rejected it, and has allowed Michael Munie the opportunity to prove that the “Competitor’s Veto” denies him the right to earn a living for no legitimate reason.
As we’ve noted, of course, the state legislature appears poised to repeal the law that we’re challenging in this case, which would render it moot. But for now, it’s full steam ahead for economic liberty!