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On The Front Lines

Victory: Missouri Repeals Burdensome Overregulation Law Requiring a Government License to Braid Hair, Mooting Supreme Court Challenge

WASHINGTON, DC — Relenting in the face of legal arguments by The Rutherford Institute and others that burdensome overregulation violates a person’s right to due process, the State of Missouri has repealed a senseless occupational licensing law that required individuals to secure a costly license in order to braid hair. In asking that the occupational licensing law be struck down, Rutherford Institute attorneys filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Niang v. Tomblinson, arguing that licensing restrictions that require a government license in order to perform work-related tasks that pose no health or safety risks such as braiding hair deprive citizens of their constitutional right to earn a living at their chosen vocation. As a result of Missouri’s repeal of the law, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the case moot and ordered that the lawsuit challenging the law be dismissed.

The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Niang v. Tomblinson is available at www.rutherford.org. Attorneys Anand Agneshwar, Michael A.F Johnson, Kyle Gooch, Zachary Sweebe, and Dirk C. Phillips, Michael J. Lockerby, David A. Hickerson and George E. Quillen of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer in Washington, DC, and New York, NY, assisted The Rutherford Institute with the Niang brief.

“This case, which challenged whether one needs a government license in order to braid hair, struck at the heart of the bureaucratic exercise in absurdity that has pushed overregulation and overcriminalization to outrageous limits,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Unfortunately, it’s not just hair braiding that has become grist for the overregulation mill. Almost every aspect of American life today—especially if it is work-related—is subject to this kind of heightened scrutiny and ham-fisted control, whether you’re talking about aspiring bakers, florists, tour guides, taxi drivers, eyebrow threaders, teeth whiteners, and more.”

After years of practice and experience, Ndioba Niang and Temeka Stigers have developed a talent for African-style hair braiding, a natural hair care technique that involves intricate braiding and locking to create culturally distinctive hair designs. Niang and Stigers do not use chemicals, heat or any other process that could be dangerous to persons, and the hair braiding service they provide in the St. Louis area is generally not available from barbers, hair salons and cosmetologists. However, Missouri law required all persons engaged in cosmetology, which is defined as the arranging, dressing or waving of hair, to obtain a license. Doing so required Niang and Stigers to take at least 1,500 hours of classwork costing $12,000 and then pass an examination. Additionally, virtually none of the classwork or the questions on the examination pertained to African-style hair braiding. Alleging that the state’s licensing requirement is costly and arbitrary, Niang and Stigers challenged the requirement in court. The lower courts rejected their claims. Niang and Stigers subsequently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case.

In its brief supporting Niang and Stigers’ Supreme Court petition, The Rutherford Institute argued that economic liberty and the right to earn a living—fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution—cannot be restricted by irrational occupational licensing requirements.


Case History

May 23, 2018 • Denouncing Burdensome Overregulation, Rutherford Institute Asks Supreme Court to Strike Law Requiring a Government License to Braid Hair

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