Maryland's funeral home cartel

September 24, 2009 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

Author: Timothy Sandefur

This week, PLF's Economic Liberty Project filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case coming out of Maryland, where state law forbids corporations from owning funeral homes. Only individuals can own funeral homes–and only individuals who have Maryland state funeral licenses. Why? It's simple: to protect the 58 Maryland corporations that were grandfathered in under that law and are allowed to own funeral homes. This law basically makes it impossible for people in other states to participate in the funeral home industryin the Old Line State.

Among other things, this law violates the Constitution's commerce clause, which forbids states from enacting laws that burden commerce that crosses state lines. But the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that laws like this don't even set off any alarms under the Constitution, because limits on corporate ownership aren't affected by the commerce clause. In our brief, PLF argues that the court misapplied the law and that Maryland's restriction violates the Constitution.

The legal arguments are pretty complicated. But the bottom line is simple. States routinely pass laws that benefit private interest groups with powerful lobbyists, rather than individual rights or the general welfare. America's founders intended the Constitution to stop such abuses. But thanks to the way modern courts defer to the power of legislatures, the protections our fathers implemented have eroded significantly.