PLF asks Kentucky federal judge to protect Raleigh Bruner’s right to earn a living

June 10, 2013 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

In an emergency pleading filed with a federal judge in Kentucky this morning, PLF attorneys are asking Federal District Court Judge Danny Reeves to block state bureaucrats from ignoring proper judicial procedures and depriving PLF client Raleigh Bruner of his right to earn a living. Judge Reeves has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday morning in Lexington at 11am, to hear PLF’s request for a temporary restraining order barring the state from enforcing its unconstitutional, anti-competitive licensing law for moving companies.

PLF filed this civil rights case on Bruner’s behalf in August of last year. Since then, both sides have been gathering evidence to present their final case, which is scheduled for August 15 of this year. But in a surprise move, government lawyers on Friday filed a new lawsuit in state court asking that court to enforce the very laws being challenged in Bruner’s federal case. In fact, that complaint quotes at length from Bruner’s own federal complaint. And although government lawyers did not serve Bruner’s attorneys with a copy of that complaint, they scheduled a hearing in the state court for this coming Monday. That’s improper, not only because the government refused to notify Bruner’s lawyers of their actions, but because once the federal court has taken jurisdiction over a case, state courts can’t interfere with that jurisdiction by holding a trial on the same facts and the same law.

Fortunately, Bruner’s legal team was able to put together an emergency motion for a restraining order to block the state government from trying to interfere with the ongoing state case—and to block the state from enforcing the unconstitutional licensing law that Bruner challenges in his lawsuit. That brief draws on facts developed in Bruner’s ongoing case that show how Kentucky’s licensing law for moving companies benefits existing moving companies against legitimate competition from newcomers who want to compete. For example, late last year, when Lexington mover Michael Ball applied for a license, existing companies were allowed to file objections complaining that Ball’s business would compete with theirs if he were allowed to open up. Later, the government denied Ball a license in a written decision that acknowledged that Ball was safe and qualified—he had over 35 years of experience in the moving business—but that rejected his application solely because existing moving companies were “adequate,” which is code-word for “he would compete with existing firms.”

That’s just one example of how Kentucky’s licensing law for movers protects existing firms against legitimate competition, without having any connection to protecting the public from dangerous or unqualified or unskilled movers. Many other examples have been uncovered in the still-ongoing evidence-gathering…which is just why Bruner should be allowed to proceed with his federal case. After all, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes Kentucky) has explicitly declared that every citizen has “the right to compete,” and that “protecting a discrete interest group from economic competition is not a legitimate governmental purpose.”

Today’s motion comes on the heels of a similar emergency motion that PLF attorneys filed in the case of Nevada entrepreneur Maurice Underwood. A federal judge is scheduled to hear that motion in Reno on June 21. You can learn more about PLF’s fight for Raleigh Bruner’s and Maurice Underwood’s—and every American’s—right to earn a living by visiting our case pages or reading our litigation backgrounders and briefs.