Occupational Licensing

Setback in Attempt to Win Free Speech Rights for D.C. Tour Guides


Some discouraging news out of the Institute for Justice today on one of their cases, Edwards v. D.C., challenging the District's demand for a license they issue to guide tours, that is, to talk about the city as you move around it with an audience.

IJ's Bob Ewing informs me this morning that the judge in the case:

issued an order granting judgment for the District.  The case had been pending, with fully briefed motions for summary judgment, for about a year and a half without any action from the court.

The judge hasn't issued an opinion yet, but I assume he's basing his decision on grounds he articulated earlier in the case—namely, that he thinks D.C.'s regulations are restrictions on conduct, not speech, and so the First Amendment doesn't really apply.

This is incorrect—D.C. doesn't make it illegal to rent Segways to tourists and ride around town with them; it makes it illegal to communicatewith those tourists while you're riding.  That's protected speech, and we plan to appeal this decision to the D.C. Circuit. 

I blogged about the case in 2010.

IJ's dedicated site on the case.

IJ's video about the case:

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  1. What if one of these unlicensed tour operators say something about Washington DC that isn’t true? What then?

    1. Those are untested waters, since no false words have ever been uttered in our great nation’s gleaming capitol.

    2. Then the US immediately turns into Somalia.

      1. Then I can chew khat while I’m offroading in my technical

      2. The only thing that stands between us and Somalia is DC… and some roadz.

  2. Every night I sleep feeling so safe and secure under my quilt made from stitched together licenses.

    1. Is it wrong that I find that creepier than a skinsuit?

      1. “Company releases new bacon-flavored condoms”

        Now that’s a skinsuit!


  3. OT:
    Standing in front of mothers of gun victims invited to the White House, Mr. Obama scolded lawmakers for not embracing the most sweeping of his ideas and objected to the notion that the country has moved on three months after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    “Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked and the entire country pledged we would do something about it and this time would be different,” Mr. Obama said, his voice rising with indignation. “Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”


    “and the entire country pledged we would do something about it”
    Fuck you, I didn’t pledge anything

    1. Fuck you, I didn’t pledge anything

      That was my exact thought when I got to that line.

      Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.

      I didn’t do anything to hurt those kids, and I’m not the one doing something to stop their teachers from protecting them.

      1. Apparently this douchebag doesn’t know that the word “we” means. Why can’t the asshat just come out and say it?

        “I’m better than you! I want to do this and YOU have forgotten!”

        1. It’s just the royal We, right?

    2. “and the entire country pledged we would do something about it”

      Fuck you, I didn’t pledge anything

      CIYP, you’d better hope you’re not now officially marked “an enemy combatant”.

      1. “CIYP, you’d better hope you’re not now officially marked ‘an enemy combatant’.”

        If being totally pissed of at being talked down to like a 2 year old is the requirement, then I guess I deserved it.

        1. At last Feinstein garnered the 6 year old status

          1. 😎

            I’m pretty sure in his world you’re more-or-less a fetus.

            1. Which would explain his support for dronebortions.

    3. good grief…it’s like the next comment from this guy is more insufferable than the one before it. Never mind the nonsensical notion that some law would stop an Adam Lanza; it’s the imperious self-righteousness that sounds like “I have commanded my subjects to…” that really grates.

    4. To lawmakers, he said, “Don’t get squishy because time has passed and maybe it’s not on the news every single day.”

      Now even *he* is bringing up that birth certificate thing again.

  4. They’re doing God’s work in some america’s toughest neighborhoods.

  5. Licensing requirements for speech have been illegal for a long, long time. The traditional exceptions are usually quite narrow, too. Certainly, I don’t see any compelling interest here that needs protecting.

    1. Certainly, I don’t see any compelling interest here that needs protecting.

      There’s always a compelling interest that needs protectin’.

  6. Thanks to IJ, I found the definition of “tour guide” – you know, the thing you need a license to be:

    “Whenever used in this chapter, the term “tour guide” or “sightseeing tour guide” shall mean any person who engages in the business of guiding or directing people to anyplace or point of interest in the District, or who, in connection with any sightseeing trip or tour, describes, explains, or lectures concerning any place or point of interest in the District to any person.”

    The second part of the definition is pure speech – “describes, explains or lectures.” The first part might conceivably take in even people who, without speaking, simply takes the tourists point of interest. I would have to assume this wouldn’t apply to a taxi driver or other hirer-out of vehicles who simply follows the tourist’s orders (“now take us to the Washington monument!”) while remaining silent about the destinations and offering no suggestions thereon.

    Why not a segway rental agency which lets tourists hire them to go to places on all the standard tourist maps (which I suppose the could sell so long as they don’t make any suggestions where to go on the map). An employee of the agency can accompany the tourists simply to make sure they return the segways safely, and to make small talk. If asked about, say, the Washington monument, the employee could just shrug and say “check Wikipedia.”

    There, would they need a tour-guide license for *that?*

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