Constitutional Law

Federal Judge Strikes Down Utah's Bogus Licensing Scheme for African Hairbraiders


Jestina Clayton

Great news out of Utah, where the Institute for Justice successfully convinced Judge David Sam of the United States District Court for the District of Utah to strike down that state's occupational licensing scheme requiring African hair braiders to acquire an expensive and unnecessary government cosmetology license before plying their trade. In addition to the fact that "the legislature never considered African hair braiding when creating its licensing scheme," Judge Sam declared, "the State has never investigated whether African hair braiding is a threat to public health or safety." In other words, the government was unable to provide any sort of legitimate justification for requiring African hairbraiders to spend thousands of dollars on a year's worth of useless state-approved cosmetology classes. As the decision put it:

Utah's cosmetology/barbering licensing scheme is so disconnected from the practice of African hairbraiding, much less from whatever minimal threats to public health and safety are connected to braiding, that to premise [plaintiff Jestina Clayton's] right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.  "[T]he right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity" that the Constitution was designed to protect.

It's nice to see the federal courts recognizing that the Constitution does indeed protect the right to earn an honest living.