Thursday, March 21, 2013

5th Circuit Says Bar On Monks' Sale of Caskets Is Unconstitutional

In St. Joseph Abbey v. Castille, (5th Cir., March 20, 2013), the U.S. 5th Circuit held unconstitutional rules issued by the Louisiana Board of Funeral Directors that limit the sale of caskets to funeral homes. The law was challenged by a group of Benedictine monks who make and sell wooden caskets at prices significantly lower than offered by funeral homes. In finding that the law violates the due process and equal protection clauses, the court said:
The great deference due state economic regulation does not demand judicial blindness to the history of a challenged rule or the context of its adoption nor does it require courts to accept nonsensical explanations for regulation. The deference we owe expresses mighty principles of federalism and judicial roles. The principle we protect from the hand of the State today protects an equally vital core principle – the taking of wealth and handing it to others when it comes not as economic protectionism in service of the public good but as “economic” protection of the rulemakers’ pockets. Nor is the ghost of Lochner lurking about. We deploy no economic theory of social statics or draw upon a judicial vision of free enterprise. Nor do we doom state regulation of casket sales. We insist only that Louisiana’s regulation not be irrational – the outer-most limits of due process and equal protection....  
The funeral directors have offered no rational basis for their challenged rule and, try as we are required to do, we can suppose none...
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.)

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