PLF argues in Oregon Supreme Court that laws should benefit the public, not cronies

December 06, 2016 | By ANASTASIA BODEN

Though occupational licensing laws are often justified in terms of health or safety, studies show that licensing regimes are more often bare attempts by entrenched business interests to protect their market share.  The result of such crony laws is that entrepreneurs are barred from pursuing an honest living, with no corresponding benefit to the public.

Take David Hansen.  David studied architecture at the University of Idaho.  After college, he worked at various architectural firms doing design work.  Later, David and a partner started their own firm—Twist Architecture—to use their skills while pursuing licensure in Oregon. His partner was licensed in Washington at the time, and David was not yet licensed anywhere. Aware that they couldn’t practice architecture in Oregon without a license, they limited their work to making marketing drawings.  These drawings were meant to help a property development company attract retailers to developments by imagining different possibilities for the project.  The drawings were not “plans,” and could not be used for construction.  If any development moved forward, the retailers would hire their own licensed architect to draw the actual plans for the project.

After receiving a complaint from a licensed architect, the Board fined David and his partner $10,000 each for purportedly practicing architecture without a license.  The Board contends that “anything done in contemplation of constructing a building” is the practice of architecture and requires a license.

The Oregon Court of Appeals disagreed.  It noted that David’s drawings had no connection to construction, and the Board’s broad interpretation of the statute would forbid all sorts of activities that surely do not constitute “architecture.”  The Board petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review.

Today, we filed this brief in the Oregon Supreme Court on David’s behalf arguing that the Board’s interpretation is unconstitutional.  Any restriction on a person’s right to earn a living must bear a rational relationship to protecting health and safety.  Overreaching prosecutions like the one at issue here do not protect public safety, and are often bare attempts to keep individuals from competing with licensees.  The Board cannot wield its power to insulate architects from competition by others for ancillary services that are not themselves the practice of architecture.

We expect oral argument early next year.  In the meanwhile, read more about PLF’s efforts to protect economic liberty here.