Give entrepreneurs their day in court

December 09, 2013 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

PLF’s Economic Liberty Project is in the business of defending the constitutional right to earn a living at the trade of their choice. Sadly, not only is that right often disregarded by courts today, but it’s frequently difficult for business owners even to get the opportunity to make their legal arguments. The latest such example features Maurice Underwood, the Reno-area entrepreneur who would like to start a moving company—but isn’t allowed to until he first proves that his business wouldn’t compete against the state’s existing moving companies. That’s bad enough, but this summer, a federal trial court threw out Underwood’s lawsuit on the grounds that he hadn’t yet applied for a license, so he wasn’t allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the licensing laws.

We’ve appealed that decision, and as we point out in our reply brief—filed Friday afternoon—it makes no sense to require a person to submit to an unconstitutional law before going to court to challenge its constitutionality. Nevada bureaucrats argue that Underwood could apply for a license and maybe get one—and then he wouldn’t have to sue. But that sort of argument just can’t fly. The whole reason we have federal civil rights laws is to protect us against having to submit to state laws that we think violate the federal Constitution. The Ninth Circuit has already made it clear that if a licensing law intrudes on your free speech rights, you aren’t required to get a license before going to federal court to protect your rights—and the rule should be the same for people who want to defend their right to earn an honest living.

To learn more about Maurice Underwood’s fight for economic liberty, click here.