These sorts of economic liberty rational basis cases are very hard to win, but the Institute for Justice is remarkably good at winning them. Here’s IJ’s summary:
In a major victory for economic liberty, a federal court ruled late yesterday that Utah’s requirement that hairbraiders have a government-issued cosmetology license is unconstitutional. Jestina Clayton, a Salt Lake city-based African hairbraider with more than 23 years of experience. Along with the Institute for Justice and local counsel Maxwell Miller and Randy Grimshaw of Parsons Behle & Latimer in Salt Lake City, Jestina filed suit to fight the state’s anti-competitive cosmetology regulations.
Under Utah law, Jestina could not be paid to braid hair unless she first spent thousands of dollars on 2,000 hours — one full year — of government-mandated cosmetology training. But Utah never considered African hair braiding when creating its licensing scheme and has never investigated whether African hair braiding is a threat to public health or safety. Moreover, Utah’s mandatory training is almost entirely irrelevant to African hairbraiding; Jestina would have to spend almost all of her 2,000 hours on irrelevant topics, and Utah did not even know whether African hair braiding was taught in its approved cosmetology schools.
The Honorable David Sam of U.S District Court for the District of Utah held, consistent with decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, that “The 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.”
Judge Sam further ruled that “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 Jestina’s right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.”
Finally, the ruling stated that, “Utah’s regulations do not advance public health and safety when applied to Jestina because Utah has irrationally squeezed ‘two professions into a single, identical mold,’ by treating hair braiders — who perform a very distinct set of services — as if they were cosmetologists. The scope of Jestina’s activities are distinct and limited when compared to cosmetologists. She does not use chemicals, shampoo, cut or color hair, or do facials, shaves, esthetics, or nails. Even if she were defined as a cosmetologist, the licensing regimen would be irrational as applied to her because of her limited range of activities. Most of the cosmetology curriculum is irrelevant to hairbraiding. Even the relevant parts are at best, minimally relevant.”