South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State Restriction on Funeral Casket Sales Held Unconstitutional
Description Appeals court held a Tennessee law restricting the sale of funeral caskets to licensed graduates of mortuary school to be unconstitutional in violation of the due process clause and equal protection clauses. The law has no rational relationship to the state's interest in protecting public health and safety.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Equal Protection; Due Process; State Interest; Rational Relation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Tennessee Funeral Directors and Embalmers Act (FDEA) requires all those in the funeral business to be licensed by the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. The law states that persons selling "funeral merchandise" must be licensed by the Board. Only licensed graduates of mortuary school could sell funeral caskets. The operators of two stores selling funeral caskets were ordered by the Board to cease sales because they are not licensed. The owners sued the Board, contending that the FDEA violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court held in their favor; the Board appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The law is unconstitutional. For a regulatory scheme to survive rational basis review under the equal protection and due process clauses, the statute must bear some rational relation to a legitimate state interest. Protecting an interest group from economic competition is not a legitimate governmental purpose. This is an attempt by the legislature to grant monopoly power to a special interest group. The license requirement did not promote public health and safety since casket sellers are not involved in handling bodies.

Citation Craigmiles v. Giles, 312 F.3d 220 (6th Cir., 2002)

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