March 3, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Elliot Engstrom (919) 834-2099 email@example.com
Joint filing today with Cato Institute asks Court to consider occupational licensing abuse
RALEIGH – Today the Civitas Institute joins the Cato Institute in asking the United States Supreme Court to clarify its role in protecting Americans from occupational licensure abuse. In a joint amicus brief, attorneys from Civitas and Cato ask the Court to grant certiorari in Vong v. Aune — a case with the potential to put occupational licensure in the national spotlight.
Civitas attorney Elliot Engstrom joined with Ilya Shapiro, Cato’s Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and Julio Colomba, legal associate at the Cato Institute, in asking the Court to clarify the extent to which lower courts may consider the illegitimate motives of licensing boards when evaluating constitutional claims. Should the Court take up the case, it could have significant ramifications for North Carolinians, who live under one of the most expansive licensing regimes in the nation.
The case centers on Cindy Vong, a Vietnamese immigrant and American citizen who has operated a nail salon in Gilbert, Ariz. since 2006. In 2008, she began offering a foot treatment using small Garra Rufa fish to exfoliate dead skin from the feet. The treatment was very popular with Vong’s clientele, and not a single complaint was ever filed against her. However, the Arizona Board of Cosmetology did not approve, and threatened possible civil and criminal penalties if Ms. Vong did not shut down her spa fish business — this despite the fact that the board has yet to present any evidence of even a remote risk of harm.
In November of 2009, Goldwater Institute attorneys Clint Bolick and Christina Sandefur filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Cosmetology in state court, alleging multiple violations of Ms. Vong’s constitutional rights. The Arizona state courts sided with the board, leading the Goldwater Institute to petition the United States Supreme Court.
“Should the Court take up Ms. Vong’s case, the ramifications could be felt in North Carolina,” Civitas attorney Elliot Engstrom said. “Too often licensing boards are able to cloak their profit-seeking monopolies in the language of ‘public safety.’ We hope that the Court will take this opportunity to make clear that licensing boards serve the taxpayers — not their own pocketbooks.”
North Carolinians are no strangers to occupational licensure abuse. Just last week, the United States Supreme Court reprimanded the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners for trying to shut down teeth whitening businesses.
“While that case turned on federal antitrust law rather than an individual constitutional claim, we hope that it is indicative of a broader skepticism of anticompetitive behavior by licensing boards,” Engstrom said.
Previous Civitas articles on the burdens of occupational licensing in North Carolina can be found here, here and here. That includes an incident in which the NC Board of Dietetics/Nutrition tried to silence a North Carolina man who blogged about the so-called paleo diet. The board complained he was providing “nutrition care services” without a state license. Last month, however, the board backed away from that claim.
Established in 2005, the Civitas Institute is a Raleigh-based nonprofit corporation organized for the purpose of conducting research, sponsoring educational activities, and disseminating information to promote the general public’s understanding of the benefits of limited government and free market economies.
More information is available at www.nccivitas.org, or contact Jim Tynen at (919) 834-2099 or firstname.lastname@example.org.